‘One minute I was singing a hymn, next I was fighting a sword-wielding madman’

On November 28, 1999 Eden Strang went on a naked samurai sword rampage at St Andrews Catholic Church, near his home in South London.

He wounded eleven churchgoers – one of them so seriously that doctors said he might never again be able to live a normal life.

He may have gone on to harm more people were it not for the brave actions of off-duty policeman Tom Tracey who faced off against the swordsman while brandishing a five-foot organ pipe.

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"Five minutes previously I was singing the psalm,” he later said, “the next thing I was fighting with a sword-wielding madman”.

Another churchgoer, Bob Wright, tried to distract Strang by shoving a large crucifix in his face.

The first paramedics to arrive at the scene said they found a scene of "blood and panic”.

Strang had a troubled childhood, with both of his parents addicted to drugs. When he was just eight years old, his stepfather died in front of him from a heroin overdose, while his mother died from AIDS while in jail on firearms charges.

His declining mental health left his wife Michelle distraught, and she told family friends that she had tried in vain to get him professional help: "She was distraught that nothing got done,” one friend said. “No one seemed interested.”

At one point, his heartbroken wife said, Strang had tried to drown their three-year-old daughter, telling her: "That's how Satan does it."

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By the time of his frenzied attack, Strang had become convinced that he was a "hitman from God", and believed he was getting orders from his computer to kill satanists that had been sexually abusing his wife and child.

Strang told psychiatrists God told him to attack the church. "I passed judgement," he said.

At his trial, one expert witness, Dr Philip Joseph, told the court: "You can't get much madder than he was.

"He believed he was attacking non-human beings to save himself and his family. It is extremely fortunate that he did not kill his wife and daughter – he believed they too were possessed by the devil."

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In a statement read to the court, Michelle said that Strang thought his computer was a direct link to God: "Eden believed God spoke to him directly,” she said.

"He would get up in the middle of the night and pray on his knees like a Muslim.

"He said Christians worshipped false images. He was always talking about Judgment Day and the Bible.

"He didn't like me watching television and said I was a devil-worshipper. He said he'd take me away from Satan's world."

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She added: "One time he had a basin of water and held Olivia's head under it. I asked what he was doing and he said it had to be done properly.

"He said, `That's how Satan does it.'. He made me do it.”

And in November 1999 Strang’s mental health reach breaking point. Completely naked, and wielding a 3 ft Samurai sword burst into the church during Sunday Mass and lashed out at the mainly elderly parishioners.

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One victim, Paul Chilton, had several fingers hacked off and suffered a deep slash wound to the jaw which left the “gentle” 50-year-old unable to talk or eat.

Strang was charged with seven counts of attempted murder and six of assault. All of the victims later said that they had forgiven their attacker.

In June 2000, an Old Bailey jury found the 27-year-old him not guilty for reasons of insanity and the judge ordered he be detained indefinitely at a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act.

Two years later he was released into the community and went on to live in a hostel not far from where the attack took place, monitored by a public protection panel.


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