LONDON — Health officials apologized Tuesday to former Beatle George Harrison and the schizophrenic man who stabbed him as a new report disclosed major lapses in the attacker’s treatment before he broke into Harrison’s home.
The sharply critical report said workers at the British hospitals and clinics that saw Michael Abram failed to properly assess and treat him. It criticized staff who discharged him from one hospital about a month before the attack, leaving him to walk home alone early in the morning, and said he should have been put in a treatment program 18 months earlier.
"We wish to make a full and formal apology to George Harrison and his family and to Michael Abram and his family for the failures in Mr. Abram’s care and treatment prior to the appalling events of December 1999," said the statement by the St. Helens and Knowsley Health Authority and Hospitals National Health Service Trust.
"We wish to reassure the Harrison and Abram families that lessons have been learned," it added.
The report was commissioned by the St. Helens and Knowsley Health Authority, which oversees health services in an area northwest of London.
"There is no doubt, with hindsight, that there were shortcomings in the mental health services we provided," said Ken Sanderson, chief executive of the St. Helens and Knowsley Hospitals National Health Service Trust. "Michael Abram had complex mental health problems which we failed to comprehensively assess and manage."
Abram, 35, now detained indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital, welcomed the report’s condemnation of the care system, but said it should have specifically identified the workers who failed to treat him properly.
"Unless they’re put on the spot, how can we be sure they won’t make the same mistakes again?" his statement said.
He also apologized to Harrison, now 58, saying he was "deeply embarrassed and ashamed about the terrible thing that I did."
"I feel very guilty about it, but I can’t turn back time, and all I can say is that I am very sorry," he said. "But I hope people may understand what happened to me and appreciate that it was not my fault. Physically I did it, but I was not in control of my own mind at the time."
Abram was accused by prosecutors of breaking into Harrison’s home in Henley-on-Thames, west of London, and stabbing him repeatedly, puncturing a lung. He also was charged with attacking Harrison’s wife, Olivia, when she came to her husband’s defense.
A judge last year ordered jurors hearing the case to find Abram innocent by reason of insanity after three psychiatrists testified he had been a paranoid schizophrenic since 1990.
He told psychiatrists he was on a "mission from God" and believed he was possessed by the former Beatle when he rampaged through the Harrisons’ 120-room mansion.
Abram had been in and out of psychiatric facilities for years and sought help in the weeks before the Dec. 30, 1999, attack.
The report said the health service’s failings were "unacceptable," but added that none of the staff who treated Abram could have predicted the attack.
Harrison’s own health has made headlines in recent months. In June, he underwent a course of radiation therapy in Switzerland. He issued a statement at the time telling his fans not to worry and refused to comment on reports that he was battling a brain tumor.
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