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Grange Paddocks: Bishop's Stortford woman, 23, out jogging runs for her life from 'knife-wielding attacker'

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A 23-year-old woman who ran for her life to flee an attacker she believed was wielding a knife is warning other Bishop's Stortford residents to beware.

The terrifying incident in Grange Paddocks happened on Wednesday January 12 – the same day 23-year-old teacher Aisling Murphy was killed while exercising beside a canal in Tullamore, County Offaly, in the Republic of Ireland. A man has been charged with her murder.

The Stortford woman was jogging when she was threatened. She says her efforts to warn others have been ignored by police – and one officer even told her she was "naughty" to be running at 9pm.

Police at a Community Voice event in Sworder's Field
Police at a Community Voice event in Sworder's Field

She said: "I wouldn't want to panic the residents of Stortford, but even if it were to make just one person reconsider walking through the town park [Sworder's Field] or Grange Paddocks at night, it may save someone from experiencing what I did. It's better to be safe than sorry and I think it would be unfair not to make people aware.

"I was jogging through the town park and took the path along the railway track towards Grange Paddocks when I first noticed someone following behind me. I thought nothing of it – I always think Stortford's a safe place full of lovely people.

"I assumed he was on an innocent walk – there's no way of being able to tell whether someone has malicious intentions. He followed me for roughly half a mile and started running after me as I came to the far edge of Grange Paddocks' fields, where the football pitches meet the river.

Grange Paddocks off Rye Street
Grange Paddocks off Rye Street

"He ran alongside me, attempting to block off my path and stop me from being able to run towards the car park. He lunged at me and said 'Come here' and tried to grab me.

"It was pitch black so I couldn’t tell for sure, but I saw something long and shiny in his hand. Having reflected over it since the incident, I'm sure his hand was in a raised fist and I'm almost certain it was a knife in his hand. I had to sprint to get away from him and I'm grateful I didn't freeze in fear."

She said: "It’s left me quite shaken up and I'd hate for it to happen to anyone else. This is particularly important following the death of Aisling Murphy, who was killed on Wednesday – the exact same day – while on a jog in Ireland in broad daylight."

She said that the man who followed her may have been spotted by a group of teenagers who were walking with adults carrying torches. She said they may have been a Scout group and appealed to them to come forward in the hope they will be able to add to her description.

The new Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre. Picture: Vikki Lince
The new Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre. Picture: Vikki Lince

The young woman said she had asked staff at nearby Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre to warn members to avoid the open space at night and asked police to issue a Neighbourhood Watch alert but had yet to receive a satisfactory response.

Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson has contacted Hertfordshire Constabulary on the victim's behalf.

The young woman told the Conservative: "It feels like people would rather pretend that these things don't happen in our town than warn people to stay off the fields at night. Is the reputation of our 'quiet countryside town' more important than the safety of our residents? Will it take a murder for threatening behaviour to be taken seriously?

The victim has written to MP Julie Marson
The victim has written to MP Julie Marson

"He got extremely close to me and it was sheer luck that I managed to outrun him."

"I've lived in Stortford for 14 years and I know it's a lovely town where crime rates are low and the majority of people are helpful and trustworthy. But I feel totally let down.

"Am I being ignored because I could run faster than the attacker? Will it take murder or rape for someone to be listened to? Why are we waiting for it to get to that point?"

The Indie has contacted Herts police, East Herts Council and Grange Paddocks operator Everyone Active for comment.

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