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Dartford victim speaks out after Strood man acquitted of attempted murder outside Wetherspoon's pub The Flying Boat

A stab victim who was knifed four times outside a pub has said he cannot forgive his attacker, who was acquitted by reason of insanity.

Stephen Hooper had been drinking in the Flying Boat in Dartford when IT worker Joel Jueanville attacked him from behind without warning.

Stephen Hooper was stabbed four times in the back
Stephen Hooper was stabbed four times in the back

The 61-year-old was taken to hospital on May 25 last year after receiving four blows to his back from a lock knife. He has since recovered physically but has suffered flashbacks.

The ex-marine spoke of his "sheer surprise and shock" to learn Mr Jueanville, of Frindsbury Road, Strood, was acquitted of attempted murder on grounds of insanity on Thursday last week.

It comes after prosecution lawyers accepted during the trial that the 32-year-old was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the attack in Dartford.

Mr Hooper had gone for a smoke outside the Wetherspoon's pub when he was struck from behind.

He described enjoying a conversation with two ladies and their dog when he felt something hard push against his back.

The attack happened outside the Flying Boat in Spital Street, Dartford. Picture: Google
The attack happened outside the Flying Boat in Spital Street, Dartford. Picture: Google

"I think I got half way through my pint," Mr Hooper said. At first he thought it might have been someone patting him on the back but "it was too hard and it really hurt".

He said: "I stood up holding my back. I realised as I brought my hands away they were already covered in blood.

"Without any forewarning I got stabbed four times in the back. Two of the stab wounds punctured my left lung.

"One chipped off a piece of my spinal cord. The last one was less than a millimetre from my kidney.

"I was told if they had hit the kidney, I would have bled out."

Judge Philip St John-Stevens said he believed the right verdict had been delivered
Judge Philip St John-Stevens said he believed the right verdict had been delivered

Mr Hooper was taken to King's College Hospital in London where he was treated for his injuries and spent the night under observation.

He returned to Dartford around eight days later to praise the workers at the pub who he credits with helping save his life.

"The first thing I did was go to the Flying Boat to thank the bar staff because they were using T-shirts to stem the blood while we waited for the ambulance," he said.

Mr Jueanville returned to the pub nine days after the stabbing.

He was arrested after a member of the bar staff recognised him and alerted police who found him outside, carrying a lock knife which contained Mr Hooper's DNA on its tip.

The trial took place at Maidstone Crown Court
The trial took place at Maidstone Crown Court

At the trial, eyewitness Kira Woodcock described Mr Jueanville walking off “really casually and slowly without a care in the world”.

During the hearing, a psychiatrist revealed Mr Jueanville had admitted to having hallucinations about voodoo and witchcraft.

Dr Tim Rogers told the jury at Maidstone Crown Court Mr Jueanville believed "in that moment" he was acting to save himself and therefore the defence of insanity applied as he was unaware his actions were legally wrong.

"There is no alternative or rational motive for Joel Jueanville to assault the victim in quite the way he did," he explained.

Defence barrister Oliver Saxby QC said after the hearing: "Insanity applies where someone has a defect of reason as a result of some sort of recognised mental illness and either they didn’t know the nature and quality of the act they did or they didn’t know that what they were doing was against the law.

"All the experts agreed he had a disease of the mind at the time he stabbed the victim – namely schizophrenia – and they all agreed he was suffering from symptoms of this at the time he stabbed the victim – namely delusions. "

After the trial, Judge Philip St John-Stevens thanked the defendant for his behaviour in what he called "one of the most unusual cases I have ever been involved with in 30 years".

Mr Hooper reacted angrily to the verdict, which had been subject to repeated delays due to the pandemic.

He said he was "gutted" after waiting such a long time, adding that he felt the judge's wording did not take into account the serious injuries he sustained.

"It should have been he is guilty but he has mental health problems," he said.

Mr Jueanville will now stay at a secure mental hospital and the judge will receive two reports from psychiatrists before making an order under the Mental Health Act.

Meanwhile, Mr Hooper says the attack has left him "jumpy" and he suffers regular flashback and panic attacks.

He has since moved away from the area and is currently shielding with his partner as he is classified as vulnerable owing to his diabetes and a heart condition.

In the months following the stabbing, he says he would often sit with his back protected against a wall or a window.

He also had flashbacks after watching an episode of Midsomer Murders in which someone is stabbed in the back in a cemetery.

"Immediately, that sent me in a spin," he said.

As a practising Catholic, Mr Hooper said the attack had left him troubled and he had sought guidance from a priest.

"It felt so purposeful how he stabbed me.

"If he showed some remorse I might start to get over it," he added. "You can't forgive someone who has got off scot-free."

The hearing was adjourned until next month for reports to be prepared.

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