EXCLUSIVE BY JOE JENKINS
THE MENTALLY ILL student who stabbed a north London priest with a kitchen knife and was last week ordered to remain indefinitely at a high security psychiatric hospital, was involved with the Neocatechumenate.
The Old Bailey heard how Nicholas Top, 27, a French student and waiter, had arrived last February at the presbytery at the Sacred Heart, Holloway, in a state of distress. Top, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, told Fr Edward "Teave" Carroll, parish priest: "I want the sacred blood. I am possessed. This is the night the anti-Christ comes."
Fr Carroll, 66, invited Top into his kitchen and gave him a glass of water. As Fr Carroll prepared him something to eat and turned his back to Top while he looked in the fridge, his assailant picked up an 8-inch knife from a rack and plunged it into Fr Carroll's back, almost up to the hilt. Fr Carroll's surgeon described the priest's survival as "miraculous", adding that had the knife entered a fraction either side of the wound, Fr Carroll would have been killed.
Helena Kennedy, QC, counsel for Mr Top, said of Fr Carroll, who has made a strong recovery: "If anyone deserved divine intervention, it was this good man."
The Herald can now reveal that the assailant had been a member of the Neocatechumenate group that meets in the Sacred Heart parish.
As reported in court, Top, a cradle Catholic, had become fascinated by religion. After attending the meetings, he began to attend an Anglican church with a friend. According to sources close to Fr Carroll, the priest had been trying to contact Top, who lived locally, to invite him back to the meetings of the Neocatechumenate, the fundamentalist Catholic movement banned by the Clifton Diocese after it condemned its methods as "a cause of spiritual harm".
The Clifton Diocese now offers weekly counselling sessions for current and former members of the Neocatechumenate, while the Westminster Archdiocese continues to "monitor" the movement's activities.
One Sacred Heart parishioner told the Herald: "Top's problem was in the terminology that they use — especially for someone with Top's mental state — with their talk of damnation."
Top pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempted murder and guilty to committing grievous bodily harm. He returned to Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, north London, where doctors will continue to treat him until he is well enough to be relied on to take his medication unassisted.
Fr Carroll was not in court. He later declined to speak to the Herald.