Your Life: Stabbed.. at our wedding reception; For six months Laura Pattenden Hunt, 27, had planned the perfect wedding party. But at the end of the night her groom was bleeding in her arms...
The cake cut, Laura and Joe Pattenden Hunt's 80 guests crowded outside to watch the fireworks light up the night sky. It seemed like the perfect end to a day that the couple had dreamed of for months.
But just moments later Laura was cradling her new husband in her arms and screaming for help as he lay bleeding after being stabbed by a gatecrasher.
Joe, 27, pulled through but the couple can't bear to think of their wedding party. He says: "July 26 will never feel like the anniversary of our wedding reception, it will be the anniversary of the day I was stabbed."
The couple, who had made their vows in a small ceremony at their favourite holiday spot on the Isles of Scilly a month earlier, threw the party to celebrate their marriage with their friends and family.
Laura wore her wedding dress and Joe put on his suit again for the party in the grounds of his dad's cottage in Crow borough, East Sussex.
Fairy lights twinkled in the trees, stars shone down on the house and flaming torches set around the wedding marquee created a magical environment.
Laura says: "The wedding party had taken months to plan but six hours flashed by in what seemed like seconds.
"We had a best man, bridesmaids and wedding cake, and everyone we cared about was there to share the day with us.
"Luckily for us it turned into the hottest day of the year - sunshine and blue skies meant we had a balmy evening, perfect for being outside late.
"Everything went even better than we'd dare dream. Before we knew it the buffet was eaten, the fireworks had finished and the younger guests were getting down to some serious dancing in the marquee.
"Just after midnight I was ready to dance the night away. But when I looked over to the bar under the trees I saw five or six young men in football shirts.
"I didn't know any of them and suddenly I was frightened. Then I saw Joe and our best man, Jason approaching them and heard Joe ask what they were doing there."
At first it seemed they were going, then one of them barged into a flaming torch, sending it crashing to the ground.
Joe says: "I'd asked them politely to leave and just kept repeating 'this is a wedding party and we would really like you to leave now'.
"When the torch went over I ran forward and tried to grab the guy responsible and keep him there until the police arrived.
"As we tussled, I felt some blows and thought he was punching me. Jason was trying to help and though we were probably only struggling for a few seconds, at the time it seemed like ages.
"Then, as I got back on my feet, I felt something warm dripping on my feet and when I looked down there was blood pouring from my arm."
Joe staggered back towards his new wife with best man Jason just behind, Jason's face and neck covered in blood.
Laura says: "I screamed: 'Oh God... they've been stabbed.' then Joe fell down on a patch of lawn and I ran to him, knelt on the ground and cradled his head in my arms.
"There was so much blood I feared Joe was dying. I'd only just become a bride and was terrified I'd end my wedding party as a widow."
As friends crowded around, Laura pieced together what had happened. Joe hadn't been punched, he'd been stabbed in the arm with a six-inch serrated kitchen knife. Laura adds: "Joe couldn't speak, he was shaking uncontrollably and as I held him I could feel his heart racing in his chest.
"His face just had an expression of disbelief. Our wedding party had been so perfect, but in the space of a few seconds it became like an episode of Casualty.
"As we waited for the ambulance the blood kept pouring and I watched Joe growing weaker. He kept shutting his eyes and I could see it was costing him a tremendous effort to open them again.
"I was terrified he was drifting away and kept telling him over and over: 'I love you, I love you. Stay with me, don't leave me.'"
Within minutes an ambulance arrived. Joe says: "I remember feeling sad that our perfect party had ended like this. I kept thinking how upset my dad was going to be - he had wanted so much to give us a wonderful evening. Then I started to feel very tired and just wanted to go to sleep." The couple were hurried to Kent and Sussex Hospital along with best man Jason, who'd been stabbed in the back of the neck, and his wife Anna.
Fortunately none of their injuries was as serious as first thought and they were discharged the next day after making statements to the police.
The wound in Joe's forearm had cut through to the muscle and Jason's was an inch deep.
Joe says: "I remember telling Laura that as my stretcher was loaded into the ambulance I looked up and saw a police helicopter circling overhead. then I saw a shooting star flash by and I made a wish to live.
"The next day I'm not ashamed to admit that I was very tearful. When we left hospital and went back to Dad's house, seeing all that blood on the grass was an awful shock.
"It brought back all the chaos and terror of the night before. I realised Jason and I could have lost our lives there - and for what? All because someone didn't like a group of people innocently enjoying themselves."
Police quickly arrested a man in connection with the stabbings.
But Laura says: "Every time I shut my eyes I had flashbacks.
"In the days that followed we went over and over what had happened. When we heard the man had been arrested we prayed the courts would throw the book at him.
"I was amazed at how quickly Joe recovered. Within a week he was able to return to his job as a landscape gardener. But the mental scars went much deeper.
"Mostly he was devastated that the wonderful party had ended in such a horrible way."
Three months later, in October, Matthew Gould, 23, from Crowborough, East Sussex, admitted possessing a knife and two counts of wounding causing grievous bodily harm without intent at Lewes Crown Court.
He had called pol ice to complain about noise from the party before going there.
He was jailed for 21 months on each wounding charge, and 15 months for possessing the knife, all to run concurrently.
Laura says: "We still find it painful to talk about how our wedding party ended in a bloodbath but now we need to draw a line under the horrific events of that night and move on.
"This thug may have spoiled our wedding party but we're young, we are in love and we have a lifetime together to make other happy memories.
"Who knows it's possible we might feel like holding another party one day. If we do. one thing's for sure - next time we'll be hiring professional bouncers. We won't risk having unwelcome guests again."
Our party was like an episode of Casualty
I saw a shooting star and made a wish to live
STAYING STRONG: Joe and Laura are rebuilding their lives after the attack; GLORIOUS DAY: The happy couple pose for pictures before the horror unfolded; BLOOD BOTHER: Joe in hospital recovering from the vicious assault
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Nov 25, 2008|
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