A UK champion athlete, Lauren Jeska, aged 42, has been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment after admitting trying to kill a member of the UK Athletics staff at Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr last year.
Fell runner Jeska stabbed UK Athletics’s Head of Human Resources and Welfare, Ralph Knibbs, leaving him with life-threatening injuries to his head and neck on the morning of Tuesday 22nd March. She also inflicted minor injuries on two other members of staff as they rushed to Mr Knibbs’ aid at the head office in Walsall Road, Perry Barr.
The attack was totally unprovoked and left several members of staff in a state of shock.
Detective Sergeant Sally Olsen, from the force’s Violent Crime Team, said: “We understand that Jeska had been asked to provide further evidence of hormone levels after historical complaints to UK Athletic that she had an unfair advantage competing in women’s events because she had been born a man.
“The governing body’s policy required the athlete to take blood a test but she took exception to this and feared being unable to compete.”
Police investigations show that Jeska planned the attack that day. She filled her car with fuel the night before and drove 100 miles from her home in Machynlleth, Mid Wales to the stadium. She was captured on CCTV parking her car and returning to it a short while later to change her shoes before heading toward the offices carrying a rucksack.
She entered the building and asked to see Mr Knibbs at reception where she was told to wait, but she continued her way through the open plan office and carried out the brutal attack on him.
Colleagues rushed to his assistance, administering life-saving first aid, and called emergency services. Without thought for their own safety two staff members were injured as they disarmed Jeska of the two knives she held in each hand and detained her until police arrived.
In a victim impact statement presented to the judge at today’s hearing former England under 23s and England Sevens rugby player Ralph Knibbs told how the events of that day have impacted on his life.
He said: “My overriding feeling is that I am very lucky to be alive, as the vascular surgeon informed me on several occasions in the days following my operation, when I was in hospital. Since the attack I have been re-evaluating what is important in my life, as I try to get back to some normality after this near death experience.”
He continues to make a steady recovery from his injuries.
Staff at UK Athletics have also been affected by the incident and increased security measures have been introduced along with ongoing staff counselling. They told the court: “UK Athletics is a national governing body for the sport of athletics in this country. It works to support athletes, with their welfare being key to what we do. Therefore none of its activities would ever have been expected to result in such a chain of events taking place.
“Our Head of HR Ralph Knibbs has always been a very popular, friendly, supportive and much respected figure within our workforce. That such an attack should happen to such an individual was devastating, but to have it played out within our office cut to the very core of our organisation.
“The impact of the attack on Ralph has therefore been deep and lasting at both an individual employee and a corporate level, changing attitudes and working practices. Athlete welfare is a key element of everything we do, and for us to suffer such an unprovoked and brutal attack as a consequence of trying to assist and support an athlete has been a very difficult thing for staff to comprehend and respond to.”
Det Sgt Olsen added: “Jeska carried out a violent and unprovoked attack on a man whose sole objective was to enable her to compete. She will now have plenty of time behind bars to contemplate the devastating consequences of her actions.
“We are grateful to UK Athletic for their ongoing support in our investigation.”
Jeska was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court today (Tuesday 14 March).