Nov. 29 marks eighteen years since former Beatle George Harrison died of throat cancer in 2001 at the age of 58. What gets forgotten after all these years was another tragic event in George’s life, when he and his wife, Olivia, were savagely attacked by a fan in 1999.
The couple at the time said they were fairly certain neither of them would survive the night, so intent their attacker was on ending their lives.
Find out more about what happened to George Harrison and the sentence handed down to his assailant.
What happened on Dec. 30, 1999
The trial of the man who had invaded the Harrisons’ 120-room Friar Park Victorian mansion on the night of Dec. 30, 1999, and who they would come to know as Michael Abram, was held in 2000. George Harrison provided a statement to the court, while his wife and son, Dhani, in attendance at the trial, recounted what took place on that night.
As reported by The Guardian in 2000, George’s statement to the court began that evening with his having locked up the estate for the night and joining his wife in bed at around 2:00 AM. About an hour later, Olivia heard what sounded like glass breaking. She thought in her grogginess that perhaps a chandelier had fallen, but realized soon enough that someone had broken into their home.
George went to investigate the noise, while Olivia called the police. From the landing of the top floor, George saw the intruder. He tried reasoning with him but the man was screaming. In return, George, as a devotee of Hare Krishna and in a futile attempt to throw the man off, began yelling ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna!’
George could see the intruder, who now was flying up the stairs, had a knife in his hand. He lunged at the man, hoping to disarm him. Instead, Abram viciously began stabbing George in the upper chest.
‘I could feel the strength draining from me’
George continued grappling with the 33-year-old man, who Olivia later described as having unkempt, straw-like hair with “wild and staring” eyes. “We fell to the floor,” George’s statement went on. “I was fending off blows with my hands. He was on top of me and stabbing down at my upper body.”
Olivia hit him with a small brass poker. Abram chased her and began choking her. George, now bleeding heavily and weakened, said he stumbled after his wife and Abram.
“I felt exhausted and could feel the strength draining from me. I vividly remember a deliberate thrust to my chest. I could hear my lung exhaling and had blood in my mouth. I believed I had been fatally stabbed.”
Finally, Olivia knocked Abram unconscious when she smashed a brass lamp over his head, stopping the attack.
The sentence given to Harrison’s attacker
Michael Abram’s defense at his trial was not guilty by reason of insanity. He told the authorities, once he was out of the psychotic episode he had been in, “At first I listened to the (Beatles’) music and thought they were good. But then I started splitting up the letters in their names and songs and getting messages that they were evil.”
He was cleared of all charges and released to a “secure hospital.”
In the end, the court agreed that Abram had a “complex delusional system” and was sentenced to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed for nearly two years and was released shortly after George’s death. He never served one day in jail.
After his release from the hospital, Abram released a statement, “If I could turn back the clock, I would give anything not to have done what I did in attacking George Harrison. … I can only hope the Harrison family might somehow find it in their hearts to accept my apologies.”