Runner jailed for stabbing UK Athletics staff

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The court heard that Lauren Jeska’s transgender status led to a dispute with UK Athletics

A fell-running champion has been jailed for 18 years for stabbing three UK Athletics staff at a major arena.

Lauren Jeska, a transgender athlete, admitted trying to murder Ralph Knibbs at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium last March.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that Jeska, 42, stabbed Mr Knibbs in the head and neck, leaving a 2cm hole with “blood pumping out”.

The “cool, calculated attack” happened after a row about hormone samples.

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Julie Warburton, mitigating for Jeska, said her transgender status had led to a disagreement with Birmingham-based UK Athletics, where Mr Knibbs was head of human resources and welfare.

Jeska also pleaded guilty, in September, to causing actual bodily harm to Kevan Taylor and Tim Begley, who tried to intervene during the attack, and two counts of illegal possession of a knife.

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Ralph Knibbs was left with restricted movement and has difficulty eating as a result of the attack

Running as a woman, Jeska, of Wesley Terrace in Machynlleth, Powys, was England’s champion fell-runner three times between 2010 and 2012, and has been a member of Todmorden Harriers, Aberystwyth Athletics Club and another club based in Snowdonia.

Problems arose when she was considered for international selection in 2015, Ms Warburton said on behalf of Jeska.

Although she was not chosen she “had a mental breakdown” by the end of the season, Ms Warburton said, sparked by a dispute over her hormones.

Jeska was told her previous race results could be expunged and she feared further blood tests would reveal her transgender status publicly.

‘Skewer meat’

A week before the attack, Mr Knibbs went to meet Jeska at her home to discuss the “long-term” issue with the sporting governing body.

On March 22 last year, she drove from her home in Wales to Birmingham with two knives hidden in a rucksack and walked into the open-plan UK Athletics office before launching her attack on Mr Knibbs.

One eyewitness said Jeska looked “as though she were trying to skewer meat”.

Judge Simon Drew QC said before passing sentence he had considered various psychiatric reports and the nature of the attack.

But he said it had been planned and executed with “chilling precision”, meaning Jeska posed a “serious risk in the future”.

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West Midlands Police

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Jeska “had always been a gentle and caring person” before the stabbings, her parents said

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Jeska was considered for international selection in 2015

The court heard how Mr Knibbs, a former rugby player with Bristol, suffered a stroke at the scene which temporarily blinded him in one eye.

He now has limited vision in both eyes, rendering him disabled, his movement is restricted and he has difficulty eating due to severed nerves.

Mr Knibbs said he was in a “constant battle with his emotions”.

Accountant Tim Begley was stabbed in the ribs but the blade did not penetrate deeply, while finance director Kevan Taylor was cut on his left hand and fingers as he restrained Jeska.

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Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium hosts Diamond League events and the national championships and is the base of UK Athletics

Jeska must also serve five years on extended licence and will not be eligible for parole for 12 years.

Speaking after the case, her parents Pauline and Graham Jameson said they were praying for the full physical and emotional recovery of Mr Knibbs.

During Jeska’s “mental health crisis” they said she “felt traumatised and had flashbacks which caused fantasies of doing something drastic” and had “twice asked for help from the NHS but was not referred for psychiatric help”.

“Whatever the technical psychiatric diagnosis, it is clear to us as parents that the assault is only understandable as the consequence of a mental health crisis precipitated by the affair with UK Athletics,” her parents said.

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Jeska’s parents Pauline and Graham Jameson said their daughter had suffered a “mental health crisis”