Man jailed for frenzied knife attack

A Leeds man has been jailed for 25 years today for the attempt murders of his ex-partner and her mother.''Leslie Cunningham [40] of no fixed abode pleaded guilty to the attempted murders of Angela and Stephanie Gardener at Leeds Crown Court.
A Leeds man has been jailed for 25 years today for the attempt murders of his ex-partner and her mother.''Leslie Cunningham [40] of no fixed abode pleaded guilty to the attempted murders of Angela and Stephanie Gardener at Leeds Crown Court.

A MAN who carried out a frenzied knife attack on his former girlfriend and her mother while high on drink and cocaine has been given an indeterminate jail sentence for public protection.

Leslie Cunningham left his former partner Stephanie Gardner and her mother Angela with devastating injuries in the attack at their home.

The painter and decorator, of no fixed abode but formerly of Gildersome, repeatedly stabbed Angela Gardener after bursting into her kitchen when she opened the back door of her home in Garforth to leave for work on August 2 last year.

As she lay bleeding on the floor he then ran upstairs to find Stephanie. Fuelled by a cocktail of cocaine and alcohol, Cunningham cornered the 25-year-old in her bedroom and told her in a calm voice he was going to kill her before he began stabbing her in the neck.

As she put up her arm to protect her face, more blows landed to her chin and shoulder and the murderous attack only stopped when she had the presence of mind to play dead, Richard Clews, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court.

Meanwhile Mrs Gardener had managed to crawl out of the house on to the drive in Bar Lane, Garforth, Leeds, to try and summon help. But she was spotted by Cunningham who went out, kicked her in the head, and dragged her back to the semi.

When he finally left, the severely injured Mrs Gardener, who had been stabbed 13 times, once more crawled outside for help.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier told Cunningham, 40, yesterday he was probably not facing a murder charge only because the passing motorists who rushed to Mrs Gardener’s aid included a doctor and a nurse.

They turned her over so she did not choke on her own blood and applied pressure pads until more help arrived. But the consequences for Mrs Gardener in particular had been grave and long term. Wounds to her neck had damaged her vocal cords so she can now only speak in a whisper and because she is unable to swallow, the court heard, she has to be fed through a tube in her stomach.

She has to spit frequently because she cannot swallow her saliva.

The knife also penetrated her chest causing her left lung to collapse.

There was bleeding in the brain from the head injury which has left her with double vision and problems with her balance which means she has to use a wheelchair when moving anything other than a short distance. She has also not been able to return to work as a carer.

Although Stephanie suffered multiple stab wounds including six to her neck, they were less severe and during surgery, which was carried out the next day, they were found not to have caused long term muscle or tendon damage.

But the judge said, having read victim impact statements from the pair, there was significant psychological damage on top of their physical injuries.

Stephanie wrote: “He has given us a life sentence. I’m still frightened no matter what happens to him at court he will still come and get me.”

Her mother said he had wrecked her life and what he had done “will always stay with me as long as I live.”

Cunningham admitted attempting to murder both women on August 2 last year.

He was ordered to serve a minimum of 12 and a half years but Judge Collier warned him he would only be released when the Parole Board no longer considered him a danger. He said Cunningham had violent tendencies when faced with emotional difficulties and in recent times had resorted to drugs and alcohol which on the morning in question he had taken to “explosive levels.”

Mr Clews told the court Cunningham had begun a relationship with Miss Gardener in 2010 after meeting at a local cricket club but he became increasingly jealous and controlling and used violence against her on occasions.

She tried to end with him a number of times but he threatened that her family would regret it if she did.

In July last year she told him it was over between them and received a text message on July 31 which said: “Can’t believe you have done this.

“You don’t know what you have caused.”

On the morning of August 2, when her father Christopher was away from home, Cunningham put his words to Stephanie into action.

Simon Bourne-Arton QC for Cunningham said he came from a good family and now regretted what he had done as a result of his obsession with Miss Gardener.

He was under the influence of “copious quantities of cocaine and alcohol.”

After the case the two women said in a statement: “Our lives will never be the same again.

“We will always have a constant reminder of that horrific morning.”