The former Beatle George Harrison was reported to be in stable and "comfortable" condition in a hospital tonight after he was stabbed in the chest by a man who broke into his palatial home early this morning.
The 56-year-old rock idol and his wife, Olivia, apparently got into a furious fight with the assailant and managed to subdue him, police said, but not before the intruder, described by police as a psychologically disturbed stalker, stabbed Harrison with an "extremely sharp" seven-inch dagger. Responding to a frantic call from Harrison's round-the-clock security staff, police arrived within minutes, arrested the intruder and whisked the Harrisons off to the hospital.
Harrison suffered cuts on his arms and a one-inch stab wound to his chest; the blow partially collapsed his right lung, but did not damage major organs or arteries. Olivia Harrison, 49, was treated for minor injuries, then joined her husband at his hospital bedside.
The assailant was identified as Mike Abram, 33, a loner from the Beatles' home town of Liverpool. Neighbors and police sources told the BBC that the accused has a history of psychological problems. His mother, Lynda, told the Liverpool Echo that Abram had recently become obsessed with the Beatles and thought they were causing their songs to play over and over in his head.
Thursday's attack brought back bitter memories of another midwinter assault--the Dec. 8, 1980, murder of John Lennon, almost precisely 19 years ago. Lennon was shot outside his Manhattan apartment by an obsessed fan, Mark David Chapman.
Harrison said then that the killing left him "terrified." To protect his life and his cherished privacy, the singer known as "the quiet Beatle" set out to install the finest security money could buy at his walled estate in the village of Henley-on-Thames, near Oxford.
The Harrisons live in a castle-size converted convent on a 30-acre estate in a neighborhood where houses are so fancy they have names rather than street numbers. Harrison's house, Friar Park, is surrounded by lush gardens and protected by a high brick wall topped with barbed wire. Signs along the wall declare "Guard Dogs Patrolling--24 hours" and "Razor Barb--Danger."
Police said they were mystified as to how anyone--particularly the frail, bespectacled Abram, described by neighbors as "mild-mannered"--could have maneuvered past all that, plus the security guards, to break into the singer's home.
The attack evidently took place about 3:30 a.m. Detective Chief Inspector Euan Reed of the Thames Valley Police said the Harrisons were awakened by a window breaking. Harrison went downstairs to check, and encountered the intruder on his curving staircase. The assailant began swinging a dagger. Olivia Harrison came to her husband's defense, and a fracas ensued, with security guards eventually reaching the scene as well.
Late today, Harrison was moved from his local hospital in Oxford to Harefield Hospital in suburban London, which has better facilities for treating pulmonary injuries. A Harefield physician, William Fountain, said Harrison "should make a full recovery, and should be able to go home in a few days."
Flowers and get-well wishes from fans quickly piled up around a bronze Beatles statue in Liverpool, and the Beatles' record company, Apple, said the other surviving band members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, had been told of the attack.
Harrison seemed to be taking the incident in good spirits, and even joked about the attack to doctors. According to a hospital spokesman, Harrison said the man who broke into his house "didn't have the intention of burglary, and he certainly didn't have the intention of auditioning for the Traveling Wilburys," a band Harrison formed in 1988 with Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan.
But Mark Gritten, a spokesman for the Oxford Hospital, where the Harrisons were initially treated, said the couple were "deeply traumatized."
Of the four Liverpool boys who formed the Beatles in the early 1960s, Harrison was always the most ambivalent about the group's fame and fanatic following around the world. He was the first Beatle to retreat to a protected country mansion--he moved to Friar Park 28 years ago--and has shunned the limelight most of the time since.
Harrison's first wife, Patti Boyd, left him in 1974 to move in with a flashier musician, the guitarist Eric Clapton. Shortly afterward he met Olivia, and they were married in 1978. The couple live together at the mansion with their 21-year-old son, Dhani.
There have been various burglary attempts at the Harrison home, and there was a reported arson attempt in 1972. Each time, Harrison invested in more dogs, more barbed wire, more floodlights. But whatever he paid for security apparently wasn't enough.