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George Harrison and his wife Olivia almost died during a home invasion in 1999. Instead of being bitter and angry about the incident, the former Beatle laughed it off with his usual dark humor. The attack left George badly injured and took years off his life, but he didn’t let it affect him.

George Harrison, his wife Olivia, and their son Dhani, at LAX Airport in 1988.
George Harrison with his wife, Olivia, and their son Dhani | Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

George Harrison and his wife Olivia almost died during a 1999 home invasion

On Dec. 30, 1999, Michael Abram, a 33-year-old Liverpudlian, dodged security by scaling the fence of George’s home, Friar Park, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. He entered the mansion at about 3:30 in the morning after throwing a statue through a window.

In Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Olivia said, “This guy was saying, ‘Get down here, get down here.’ ‘What do you want?’ He said, ‘You know what I want.’ It was just horrible.

“It was just like this voice from the bowels of hell, and then he just tore up the stairs. He was in a florid psychotic state, and he was tall and young… and this man was on top of George, trying to kill him.”

Olivia grabbed a poker and “hit the guy several times.” She continued, “I could see the blood spreading down his blonde hair, and then he got up, and he chased me. He had me around the neck, and George got up and jumped on his back. And he’d already been stabbed.”

They managed to get the attacker off them. George pinned the attacker down until the police arrived.

Later, in the hospital, George and Olivia looked at each other and couldn’t believe what happened. George almost died. The attacker almost took something precious away from him: how he wanted to leave his body.

“The next day, George said, ‘You know, I was lying there, and I was thinking, I can’t believe it, after everything that’s happened to me, I’m gonna be murdered. I’m being murdered in my own home.

“‘Since I’m being murdered and I’m going to die, I better start letting go of this life, and I better start doing what I’ve been practicing to do my whole life so that I can leave my body the way I want to.’ He was so defiant and so determined. Nothing was gonna stop him from leaving his body and leaping as high as he could go.”

George kept his dark sense of humor following the home invasion

One of George’s closest friends, comedian Eric Idle, was in Santa Barbara at the time of the home invasion. He immediately wanted to see George. Idle was met with an eager “Where are you!?” when he called George.

“So, OK, so, we got on a plane and came immediately, and it was very powerful. They would walk us round where the various stages of the attack took place,” Idle said in Scorsese’s documentary.

Following the home invasion, George still had his dark sense of humor even though he was badly injured. “When they picked him up, they put him on this stretcher. They’re carrying him downstairs, and there were two people who had just started to work that weekend. He’s being carried out stabbed with eight stab wounds and he looks over and says, ‘So what do you think of the job so far?’ Which is a great kind of- very George.”

George’s dark humor about the incident didn’t stop there. When Idle and George talked about it later (per Rolling Stone), Idle said George joked, “Why doesn’t this kind of thing happen to the Rolling Stones?”

Having a dark sense of humor allowed George to quickly move past the home invasion. Eventually, George showed no scars mentally or physically from the attack.


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Tom Petty didn’t like experiencing his friend’s death

Another close friend, Tom Petty, was thankful George was spiritual when he died in 2001. He wouldn’t have been able to cope if George had left his body wrong during the home invasion.

In a special edition of Rolling Stone called “Remembering George,” Petty said, “He is just a really brave guy, and he died with a great deal of dignity. It’s so much easier for me than if he had died that night in the attack. I don’t think I could have dealt with that. I told him so.

“When I put on my TV the morning he was stabbed, it looked like he had died, there were so many biographical things coming up on the TV. After that, I told him, ‘I already kind of went through your death.’ And I said, ‘Just do me a favor and don’t die that way, because I just can’t handle it.’ He said he promised me he wasn’t going out that way.”

George certainly didn’t “go out that way.” Although he had cancer for a long time, George died peacefully. He “lit the roomwhen it came time for him to leave his body and this life. George’s son Dhani said he was like a yogi because he didn’t have any mental and physical scars from the home invasion when he died. George had moved on from the terrible things in his life and didn’t let them affect him in his last moments. He was going somewhere better.