Couple at centre of 17-stab wound knife attack say: Stabbing has brought us closer together – not ripped us apart
TWO lovers whose lives were ripped apart when a jealous ex-boyfriend launched a vicious knife attack watched in court as he was convicted of attempted murder.
Consumed by rage Ashley Luff vowed to ‘do what it takes’ to keep his girlfriend Chantelle Price - stabbing her new lover Nathan Birch 17 times in an ambush.
But instead Luff is now facing a lengthy jail sentence - and the engaged couple have said their relationship is stronger than ever.
Speaking to The News minutes after the majority verdict was returned yesterday afternoon, dad-of-one Mr Birch said: ‘It hasn’t affected us - if anything it’s made us stronger to go through that sort of thing.
‘Chantelle has been great all the way through with everything. We got engaged on New Year’s Eve, it felt right.
‘I was going to wait for her birthday but with my family there and her family there it felt right.’
He added: ‘In my own head now this is out of the way and I don’t have to worry about it, it has pushed me wanting to get married even more and start to live my life.’
Furious Luff brutally stabbed Mr Birch just more than two weeks after seeing a Facebook Live broadcast of the new couple sharing their first kiss in Slug and Lettuce in Fareham on August 4.
He went on to threaten Mr Birch on Facebook – leaving the victim carrying around a rounders bat in his rucksack fearing an attack.
When Luff did spring his ambush, knocking Mr Birch off his bike as he cycled home from work in Southampton Road, the defendant knocked him off the bike so fast that Mr Birch could not get the bat.
Speaking yesterday mum-of-one Miss Price, who split with Luff after five years, added: ‘We can now get on with our lives. Hopefully we will get married next year.’
Dad-of-three Luff inflicted wounds across the TGI Friday’s chef Mr Birch’s back, neck, limbs and torso - in a 90-second attack late at night in Southampton Road, Park Gate, at 10.10pm on August 19.
Mr Birch suffered a collapsed lung and damaged spleen but was back at work in September.
He suffered three wounds to his chest ‘one of which was directly over the heart’, with two cuts to his left flank, one on each arm, and some on his back and neck. A medic found ‘at least two of those deeply penetrated the body and so were the result of considerable force,’ prosecutor Simon Jones said.
Despite being physically recovered Mr Birch is still battling with sleepless nights.
‘Once it happened and I came out of hospital and started going back to work, obviously I was always looking over my shoulder,’ Mr Birch said.
‘I know he’s been locked up but I never knew what was going to happen or whether someone else was going to come after me.
‘My sleeping at night became worse - I had to go to the doctor to get sleeping pills and that’s still continuing. I keep waking up every hour or every couple of hours.’
Supported by friends and family - and TGI Friday’s staff who called medics when a bloodied Mr Birch ran back to the restaurant - the victim hopes he will now be able to move on.
Mr Birch added: ‘I’m relieved - I feel a massive weight has lifted. I always think the worst but [the jury] has obviously seen him for who he is and what he’s done.’
Jurors took four hours and four minutes to reach their verdict in a majority decision.
Visibly shaking as the jury returned, Luff bowed his head in the dock, grinned and nodded twice as the verdict was given - ending his seven-day trial and dealing a fatal blow to his ‘ludicrous’ claims of self defence.
Supporters sitting with Mr Birch and Miss Price gasped in the packed public gallery when the forewoman returned the verdict.
Investigating officer Det Con Amanda Layton said: ‘This is a good result and a dangerous man taken off the streets.’
Luff, who denied attempted murder, will be sentenced on May 17. Judge Roger Hetherington has asked probation to assess Luff, who has a conviction for attempted robbery and dangerous driving.
Judge Hetherington remanded Luff in custody.