IT is the haunting image which will never leave the family of Jessica Knight. Listening to her iPod as she walked through Chorley’s Astley Park, Jessica, then aged just 14, was suddenly attacked by French national Kristofer Beddar
He stabbed her repeatedly in the face, neck and chest.
Her injuries were so severe it was only because a passing cyclist discovered her, by chance, and stemmed the loss of blood that she survived at all.
She was so severely injured in the attack in January 2008, Jessica’s mum Jill Walmsley says she will never forget the image of her daughter’s face.
The former Parklands High School pupil underwent five hours of emergency surgery as doctors battled to save her.
The severity of her injuries led to her suffering a stroke. Since then she has undergone numerous operations.
Today, Jessica says the events of that day changed her life forever.
“I can’t remember anything to be honest. It’s weird,” she explains.
“It all happened so fast, so I can’t remember it.”
Jessica’s mum Jill says: “I remember her face. Not recognising her, that picture will always stick in my mind, the beforehand as well, wondering where she was, because no one had heard from her.
“I knew something must have happened because one, nobody had heard from her and two, obviously you were always allowed 10-15 minutes at least (but it was longer than that).
“She didn’t have her mobile on her either at that time, if I had wanted to ring her and find out where she was I couldn’t have done anyway.
“I rang the police and they said they would circulate the description but they were dealing with a major incident at the time.”
Little did Jill know that the major incident they were referring to was that Jessica had been attacked.
She adds: “They said if she still isn’t back ring us back. So I did, because she still wasn’t home at around 10.
“I rang them back and they said they were sending some officers. That makes you panic straight away.
“They told me what had happened. They asked me had she been to the cinema because they found cinema tickets in her pocket, that was the only way they could make a connection that it was Jess.
“Then they told me she had already been in the operating theatre for three hours.”
Jessica was in hospital for three months before returning home. Five years on her recovery is continuing.
Jill says: “She always will be recovering - basically she isn’t going to get any better than she is now.
“It is the process that has been the struggle. Trying to get services involved has been the struggle.
“What people don’t realise is she might look okay but she’s not.
“The worries that I have as a parent are when she is admitted to hospital time and time again.
“I was trying to hold down a job plus trying to look after Jess with all the emotional and psychological implications and the financial difficulties as well.
“I think the actual fall out, as it were, the aftermath, has been the longer road than the recovery.
“It is constantly up and down.”
Jess still has to attend appointments at the hospital which she admits “does her head in” and she is still in severe pain, particularly in her joints.
Pointing at the scar on her arm, she says: “The neck is the one I really hated when I got out, now I hate this one. The nerve pain is constant so I am used to it. I have got medicine that helps it.
“I was healthy compared to some people and compared to how I am now. I never had the problems like I have now.
“That is what frustrates me. I’m looking back saying I used to be this healthy person, into football and stuff.”
Jill adds: “Every day is different, we don’t know how she is going to be from day to day.
“One day she can be okay and a couple of days later she can be struggling to walk, because of the pain and things like that.
“She will always have that pain, it will never go away.
“And she certainly isn’t as confident as she used to be.
“She’s not completely honest on how she does feel. She does get very, very frustrated over things.
“The stroke has caused a personality change as well.
“She has a lot more learning problems than she did have. Sometime she does struggle to get the words out that she wants to say.”
Jess, like most teenage girls, enjoys getting dressed up to go out, but admits she has lost touch with some of her friends.
She says: “It has changed the plans for my future dramatically. I wanted to go to uni. I wanted to go to Liverpool John Moores.
“It is crazy, the way one thing can change your life like that.”
After the attack Jessica missed a lot of school and is now in the process of doing her entry level maths and English with the hope of eventually studying graphics at college.
Jill says: “Fifteen minutes completely change your life in that one instant.
“It has changed her future quite dramatically. She does get frustrated and sometimes feels like she doesn’t want to be here.
“But it hasn’t changed her outlook on life.
“She wants to get there right away but I think deep down she knows it has got to be baby steps.”
However Jessica says what happened has made her realise life is too short and she is determined to not let the attack hold her back.
She says: “I still want a family. I want to get married and have kids today – All girls dream of getting married don’t they?
“And I can’t help thinking about my future. But in other ways I’m like ‘stop it Jess’, because it could just go to pot.”
Jill says what happened to Jessica has brought them closer in some ways but torn them apart in others.
She adds: “Life is hard enough to get by, but when you have got added complications it is that much harder.
“We are finding it really hard going now. We are struggling in lots of ways.
“It is very hard to feel positive. It is trying to keep on that track and keep yourself together.”
n Kristofer Beddar was convicted of attempted murder in 2008 following a six-day trial at Preston Crown Court.