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Crazed axeman attacks historic church

Waltham Abbey
A man wielding two axes went on the rampage in an English country abbey on Friday, injuring two people and wrecking valuable works of art in the historic church.

A 62-year-old man with head and back injuries was in a serious condition in hospital and a woman was being treated for shock, police said.

Martin Webster, vicar of Waltham abbey, east of London, said the "frenzied attack" started at about 13h45 GMT when a man became involved in a dispute some distance from the abbey.

"Virtually no part of the church was left undamaged," he said. "It lasted for five or six minutes. It was not a long attack but it caused a huge amount of damage."

The attacker, clutching an axe in each of his hands, managed to make an assault on the altar, and wrecked an altarpiece portraying the Annunciation, eyewitnesses said.

Webster said the assailant also succeeded in entering the heart of the church - its sanctuary - but the noise of the vandalism made it impossible to make sense of his shouting.

"He was clearly in an agitated state, but quite determined," said Webster.

Eyewitnesses said the attacker destroyed sculptures, a lectern, and also plunged his axes into the faces of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The axeman also destroyed windows in the chapel of the Virgin, which date back to the 14th century.

Sapa-AFP via IOL

6 Jan 2003