Champion runner jailed for attempted murder of Derbyshire athletics official in gender row

Lauren Jeska.
Lauren Jeska.

A transgender champion runner who attempted to murder a UK Athletics official from Derbyshire after being banned from competing as a woman has been jailed for 18 years.

Lauren Jeska, 42, tried to kill former pro rugby player Ralph Knibbs, 51, with two kitchen knives in a "frenzied attack" she carried out with "chilling precision".

A court heard she slashed Mr Knibbs with the blades in a sustained assault, which was described as like "trying to skewer meat" on March 22 last year.

She also attacked two other officials, Tim Begley and Kevan Taylor, when they bravely tried to intervene.

Police and paramedics dashed to the Olympic-grade Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, Birmingham, at 10.30am to reports of a multiple stabbing.

Birmingham Crown Court heard she carried out the "frenetic" attack in a "cool and calculated" manner in a row over her being stripped of her medals because she was born a man.

Former England star Mr Knibbs, the head of human resources for UK Athletics, was rushed to hospital with blood pumping from his neck after having his jugular severed.

Mr Knibbs, who lives in Derbyshire, needed emergency surgery after suffering horrific neck, face and head wounds and he has still not recovered from his injuries.

Jeska, of Machynlleth, Powys, who was the women's 2010, 2011 and 2012 English fell running champion, and 2012 British champion, previously admitted attempted murder.

She also admitted one count each of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against Mr Begley and Mr Taylor.

Jeska remained emotionless as she was jailed for a total of 18 years with an extended license period of five years.

Sentencing, Judge Simon Drew QC said: "On March 22, you got in your car and drove for more than two hours from your home to find Mr Knibbs.

"You deliberately armed yourself and there was a third knife in your bag as a reserve.

"It was a pre-meditated attack and it took Mr Knibbs by surprise because it was unprovoked.

"When you attacked Mr Knibbs it was a frenzied attack.

"The consequence of this attack was that he had a stroke. The harm caused could not have been much more serious.

"I have to bare in mind the aggravating feature of the knives which are not small, they are substantial weapons.

"This was a cool and calculated attack."

The court heard Jeska drove from her home to Birmingham before signing herself in at the office and arming herself with kitchen knives she had concealed in a rucksack.

She then strode into the open-plan UK Athletics office, following the receptionist and seeking out Mr Knibbs.

Prosecutor Richard Atkins QC, said: "It was a frenzied attack and attacked him about the head and neck area.

"One witness described it as if she was trying to skewer meat.

"Mr Knibbs realised he had been stabbed in the neck and could see it the blood on the wall behind him.

"He became aware he was being stabbed with two knives. By then people in the office came to his assistance.

"It is clear that she continued to fight and then caused injuries to people who came to his aid, Tim Begley and Kevin Taylor.

"Eventually, one of the men there managed to get the knife from her.

"People restrained her on the floor but again it was no easy job.

"There are other people at the office who must have saved Mr Knibbs's life."

After being arrested she told officers she had fantasised about going to the Alexander Stadium and killing all of the staff.

In a victim impact statement read to the court by Mr Knibbs, he said: "My overriding feeling is I am very lucky to be alive.

"Since the attack I have been trying to sort out what is important in my life.

"I was told I will eventually be registered as disabled and unlikely to be able to drive in the future.

"I am afraid for my future career prospects.

"It still doesn't feel like it has happened to me, it often goes through my mind why someone wanted to take my life."

The court heard the attack followed a long running dispute with UK Athletics about eligibility to compete as a female athlete.

Jeska was told she would not be able to compete and her racing results had been declared null and void as she hadn't provided blood samples to prove her testosterone levels had lowered.

Julie Warburton, defending, said: "She has said she is feels awful about what happened to Mr Knibbs and she has expressed remorse.

"The offence itself it is bound up with her transgender status, her running career and she felt that she was battling with UK Athletics, to the extent that she acted out of character.

"She had to have blood tests or she would be removed from the results of her races.

"Because of these tests, her transgender status would be outed and she had not spoken of it with some people before.

"She was a woman in crisis who needed assistance.

"She felt like she was being killed."

After the case outside court, Jeska's parents Pauline and Graham Jameson said: "We deeply regret the injury inflicted on Ralph Knibbs.

"We want him to know that w are praying for full recovery, physically and emotionally, for him and for our daughter, and for anyone else affected by this incident, which has been traumatic for all concerned.

"This assault was completely out of character for Lauren, who has always been a gentle and caring person.

"She did her best to comply with the requirements of the UKA and IAAF for transgender runners.

"During 2015, conflicting rulings were received by Lauren and the WFRA about her eligibility.

"UKA retrospectively removed her from the lists. She appealed against this.

"After a long delay, she was verbally promised reinstatement, but this was not done.

"All the stress and confusion triggered a mental health crisis.

"She felt traumatised and had flashbacks which caused fantasies of doing something drastic.

"She twice asked for help from the NHS, but was not referred for psychiatric help.

"Whatever the technical psychiatric diagnosis, it is clear to us as parents that the assault is only understandable as a consequence of a mental health crisis precipitated by the affair with UKA."

Jeska carried out the attack in a row over her being stripped of her medals because she was born a man.

Jeska carried out the attack in a row over her being stripped of her medals because she was born a man.

Ralph Knibbs is still recovering from the injuries he sustained in the attack.

Ralph Knibbs is still recovering from the injuries he sustained in the attack.