The kind of stardom and attention The Beatles endured during their time was so immense that it attracted people from all walks of life. It is safe to assume that with a lot of good that may come one’s way, the bad is inevitable at times. Such was the case when John Lennon was murdered on December 8th, 1980, by a fanatical madman. As George Harrison once so prophetically stated in The Beatles’ 1995 Anthology documentary: “They used us as an excuse to go mad, the world did, and then blamed it on us.”
Fast forward 15 years from John Lennon’s murder and, on one traumatic day in 1999, George Harrison nearly faced a similar fate. While asleep in his home on Friar Park Estate near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, Harrison was attacked at 3:30am. The perpetrator scaled the estate’s walls, evading security, and broke in through a window, using the wing of a statue of St. Michael that George Harrison’s wife had made.
George Harrison proceeded to intercept the intruder and charged at him head-on. Harrison, however, failed to disarm the man and suffered multiple stab wounds as a result. Harrison’s wife, Olivia, struck the intruder, 33-year-old Michael Abram – a native of Liverpool – with a poker. Harrison’s wife recalls part of the incident: “I hit the guy several times, and I could see the blood spreading down his blonde hair, and then he got up, and he chased me. He had me around the neck and George got up and jumped on his back. And poor George, you know, he said later: ‘Just when he got off of me, I was thinking, ‘Oh good, now I have to go fight him’”. Olivia recalls the last part of the story with bittersweet fondness. While the event was tragic, it was overshadowed by the former Beatles’ sense of humour and wit.
Even though George was closing in on death, he still maintained his wits, as when he and his family were questioned by the police as to the nature of the crime, Harrison allegedly replied: “It wasn’t a burglar, and he certainly wasn’t auditioning for the Traveling Wilburys.”
Fortunately, George Harrison did not die as a result of his injuries and was treated at a hospital for a punctured lung. After an investigation took place, it was determined that this was not merely a coincidental burglary gone wrong, but a planned attack on Harrison. Michael Abram, not unlike Mark Chapman’s killing of John Lennon, according to court reports from the legal proceedings that followed at the time, “Believed that the Beatles were witches who flew around on broomsticks. Subsequently, George Harrison possessed him and that he had been sent on a mission by God to kill him. He saw George as a sorcerer and a devil.”
In an interview with his son, Dhani, the young Harrison spoke about his late father’s devotion to meditation and Buddhist practices that he began learning back in The Beatles’ days. Dhani reflects on how this may have helped his dad’s survival, albeit his struggles with lung cancer which proved too much for even a body as light as George’s.
“He was very, very badly attacked, and by the time he died, he didn’t even have a single scar on him. He was like a yogi, he moved on from that, physically and mentally, and didn’t let it affect him. But it definitely took years off of his life, you know. If you’re trying to fight cancer and then you’re trying to stay alive from something like that, it’s gotta take it out of you.”