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The following report appeared under the headline
Cannabis psychotic nearly killed me
in the Sunday Times on 5 February 2006
Lisa Voice, one of Britain’s richest women, has had to undergo 11 operations to reconstruct her face after the unprovoked attack last June. Voice’s lawyers hope that her decision to go public about her trauma will encourage the government, police and courts to rethink their approach to cannabis misuse. They say that her experience calls into question the government’s decision to lower the classification of cannabis, despite medical warnings that it can lead to psychosis among some users.
She was asleep when the 20-year-old family friend, who was in her home in north London, attacked her in her bedroom. He punched her repeatedly, tried to strangle her and jumped on her head.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm. Medical experts concluded that he was mentally unstable at the time of the assault due to “cannabis psychosis”. He will be sentenced at Middlesex crown court tomorrow.
Voice’s injuries were so severe that on the night of the attack doctors warned her family that she was unlikely to live. She lost some of her vision when her eye sockets were smashed and has had her nose rebuilt with ear cartilage.
Over the past eight months Voice, a 52-year-old mother of two, has also had titanium plates inserted into her face to hold her cheeks together and underwent a tracheotomy to allow her to breathe.
A music producer who has worked with pop stars from Sir Tom Jones to Lemar, Voice has also built up a property investment company. At the time of the attack Hollywood film makers were working on a movie about her life, including her 12-year relationship with Billy Fury, the rock star, who died in 1983.
Speaking from her home yesterday, Voice, who is worth £29m according to the Sunday Times Rich List, said: “He (her attacker) was a kind, sweet boy I had known for more than a year and welcomed into the family. But a few days before the attack I noticed he was acting strangely. I suspected he was smoking cannabis.
“Then I woke up to find myself being attacked. He broke my jaw, totally destroyed my nose, smashed my skull and my whole face now needs wires and metal plates to function. I am a bionic woman as a result of this assault.”
Voice’s life was shattered on the morning of June 7, 2005, with a sharp blow to her head while she was still asleep. Punch after punch rained down on her and she was dragged out of bed. Her attacker then began to jump on her head. She thought her life was over.
“I was yanked out of bed. He was punching me continually. It was just petrifying,” Voice said yesterday. “I could feel my jaw swinging everywhere, my cheeks were hanging off, he smashed my nose to pieces. But then he started jumping on my head. He was strangling me. My eye sockets were smashed and I was lying there in a pool of blood.”
Drifting in and out of consciousness, Voice was aware of her two teenage children in the room desperately struggling to stop the attacker. “My daughter was shouting, ‘He’s killed my mum, he’s killed my mum’,” she said. “Her nails were torn off trying to stop him.”
Voice was already vigilant about security after a raid at her home in 2002, when jewellery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds was stolen. She had installed a top-of-the-range security system.
However, last June’s attack could not have been predicted. Her attacker had told them that he came from a respectable background, that his father was a teacher and his brother was a solicitor. He had been welcomed into the family. “In the days before the attack he did begin acting irrationally,” recalled Voice. “I noticed something was wrong and he did seem to be losing the plot. I thought that all kids smoke cannabis today, but it’s so strong they can’t function.”Police and medical experts believe the cannabis triggered a psychotic incident — the assault. Voice told police: “I looked up and saw his eyes were huge and wide open. They were what I can only describe as wild and I was honestly terrified and feared for my life. I can still see his face and eyes staring down at me.”
Dr Shahrokh Mireskandari, her lawyer, said: “Let government ministers who say cannabis is a harmless drug come and explain that decision to Mrs Voice and her many doctors. Cannabis should never have been reclassified and people such as Mrs Voice now face a lifetime of pain because of the dangers of this drug.” Voice plans to release photographs of the attack revealing the extent of her injuries. It is hoped that the images will have a similar impact to those of the heroin addict, Rachel Whitear, which were used in schools to warn children of the dangers of the drug. Voice is happy for the images of her injuries to be used in educational material.
Details of her attack come within weeks of the government decision not to return cannabis to its previous higher classification. It will remain a class C drug despite warnings from the Royal College of Psychiatrists that there is evidence linking use of the drug to psychosis and violence. Users are not automatically arrested for possession.
Although Voice’s attack was over in minutes, she is still recovering. Doctors told the family that it was one of the most vicious attacks they had encountered. That evening, medical staff told her family to fear the worst.
However, with the help of a team of specialist reconstructive surgeons and 11 operations to date, her face has slowly been rebuilt.
“I had no nose and couldn’t breathe so they took cartilage from my ear and used that to rebuild my nose,” she said. “I have titanium plates behind my cheeks — which are held in place by wire running behind my nose, face and eyes and secured through my jaw — which also had to be rebuilt.
“I’ve lost part of my vision which can make me unsteady on my feet and have had a tracheotomy.”
However, she remains optimistic. “I do actually regard myself as fortunate and I am lucky. I did have a good face, good features and I do now have an odd mouth and eyes, but to be quite honest I almost died that day. I have had to put my film on hold but am now excited about the prospect of starting work on it again.”
Her assailant has since been successfully treated for his “condition” and has expressed his remorse to the family.
The family’s legal advice is that he may well receive a non-custodial sentence when he is sentenced tomorrow. However, Voice will present the judge with statements from the family detailing the impact that the assault has had on them.
Last year researchers from New Zealand reported that regular cannabis smokers had almost double the normal risk of schizophrenia. Particular concern has focused on the strong “skunk” variety of cannabis.
Charles Clarke, the home secretary, wrote to his panel of independent experts last year asking them to re-evaluate the decision to downgrade cannabis. He and Tony Blair had indicated that a U-turn was imminent but the panel did not recommend a reclassification.
The following report appeared in teh Daily Telegraph on 7 February 2006.
The pictures below show (top) Mrs
Voice today and (below) Peter Thomas captured on Mrs Voice's CCTV
cameras during the attack.