A knife-wielding intruder stabbed George Harrison on Thursday during a fierce struggle at his home, but the ex-Beatle's wife, Olivia, might have saved her husband's life by clubbing the suspect over the head with a lamp, sources said.
Michael Abram, 33, who reportedly hated the Beatles, apparently broke into the Harrisons' heavily guarded 120-room mansion in Henley-on-Thames, west of London, and allegedly stabbed the legendary musician in the chest with a seven-inch knife, police said.
Harrison, 56, was listed in stable condition and was said to be in excellent spirits in Harefield Hospital in western London with a single stab wound to the right side of his chest. The knife missed his heart by an inch, doctors said.
"No stab wound to the chest is minor. In Mr. Harrison's case, it is just by chance that it is not particularly serious," said Dr. William Fountain, a consulting surgeon at Harefield.
Fountain said the knife blade just missed the superior vena cava, a vein that drains blood from the head, upper body and arms, and that Harrison likely would fully recover in three weeks.
Mark Gritten, chief executive of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where the former Beatle initially was taken, said Harrison had not lost his sense of humor. He said Harrison told him that the intruder "certainly wasn't auditioning for the Traveling Wilburys," an all-star group Harrison formed in 1988 that included Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison.
Olivia Harrison suffered superficial injuries and bruises.
The motive for the attack was unclear, but authorities said they did not suspect burglary. Abram, who suffered head injuries, was in police custody.
Police said the suspect broke into the house through a window or door.
"Mr. Harrison would have been woken by breaking glass and would have gone downstairs to investigate that," Detective Chief Inspector Euan Read told reporters in a news conference.
Read then described a life-and-death struggle between the Harrisons and Abram through three rooms that became spattered with blood. "What is very clear here is that this was quite a vicious attack on George Harrison and his wife," Read said.
Police sources said Olivia Harrison stunned Abram by hitting him on the head with a lamp. The couple overpowered him and held him until police arrived.
"I am not at all sure this is a burglary that went wrong. I believe he came here deliberately," Read said.
The Liverpool Echo said Abram's mother told the newspaper that her son suffered from mental problems and recently had been obsessed with the Beatles.
"He takes all music literally -- it is the Beatles at the moment, but a few weeks ago it was Oasis. He has been running in pubs shouting about the Beatles," Lynda Abram said. "He hates them and even believes they are witches and takes their lyrics seriously."
She added that her son "talked about Paul McCartney more than George Harrison."
Abrams is from Liverpool, where all four Beatles were born.
A spokesman for the Beatles' record company, Apple, said the other members of the band, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, had been advised of the attack. "Thank God it was not more serious," McCartney said.
Neighbors described the house as "Fort Knox" because it was guarded by 24-hour surveillance, dog patrols and 10-foot barbed wire fences.
The attack came 19 years after Lennon was fatally shot by a crazed fan, Mark Chapman, outside his New York apartment in December 1980.
But Beatles biographer Hunter Davies said Harrison was an unlikely target. "He's been a recluse in many ways in the last few years. He's gone into spiritualism, spiritual things," Davies said.
In 1966, Harrison married model Patti Boyd, who left him in 1974 for his longtime friend, guitarist Eric Clapton. In 1978, Harrison married Olivia, and the couple have lived at Henley since then. Their son, Dhani, 21, was in the house at the time of the attack.