'Frenzied' hospital worker stabbed sleeping friend of 20 years after drink and drug binge

·3-min read
Michelle Woodward has been locked up after stabbing her friend of 20 years
Michelle Woodward has been locked up after stabbing her friend of 20 years

A frenzied hospital worker who had been drinking cans of lager and taking drugs stabbed her sleeping friend five times with a kitchen knife.

"Emotionless" Michelle Woodward stood over friend of 20 years Paula Townsend and plunged a knife into her chest and abdomen five times after having taken cocaine, zopiclone and drinking several cans of beer.

The 46-year-old, who had worked with Ms Townsend at Calderstones in Whalley for several years, had never been in trouble with the police before the violent attack on February 5.

Prosecutor Francis McEntee told Preston Crown Court how the pair would regularly socialise, drinking at each other’s homes and taking the prescription drug Zopiclone – a medicine which is used to help with sleeping problems.

He said: “It is against that background that on February 4 she (Ms Townsend) received an invite to go round. They were drinking, watching TV and chatting.

“That first evening was uneventful and they fell asleep. Ms Townsend woke up at around 10am to find the defendant was already awake and drinking Budweiser.

“She said she seemed quiet but other than that, nothing unusual, although it did become apparent the greater part of a packet of Zopiclone had been used.”

Mr McEntee went on to describe how it was suggested the defendant had taken as many as 25 pills over the course of the evening.

Shortly after that exchange, Ms Townsend fell asleep again only to later wake up to see Woodward standing over her.

Mr McEntee said: “The defendant was described as having a frenzied but blank look on her face.

"At that stage the victim did not realise that she had been stabbed.

"She could feel some pressure on her midriff, but it was only when she came to and saw the blood around her tummy and clothes that she realised she had been stabbed.”

The pair then began to tussle, with Ms Townsend managing to get the knife from the defendant.

Woodward then appeared to come around and initiated a call to the police to get help for her friend.

Once arrested, the defendant accepted she had stabbed Ms Townsend and went on to make comments about how she had been thinking "for some time" about stabbing someone.

In a victim personal statement, Ms Townsend said that she "struggles to understand how someone she has been friends with for 20 years could stab her with a knife".

In mitigation, Kristian Cavanagh said: “The best point of mitigation is the early guilty plea.

"She is 46 and has no previous convictions recorded against her.

"She has worked within the care industry for more than 20 years looking after other people.

“The author of the pre-sentence report also remarks the defendant’s remorse is very genuine.”

Mr Cavanagh went on the describe how Woodward had taken steps since she’d been in custody to address her issues with drink and drugs.

Jailing Woodward, of Derby Street, Clitheroe, for three years and nine months, Judge Robert Altham, the Honorary Recorder of Preston, said: “This was a repeated attack with a knife on a sleeping and therefore defenceless victim.

“This incident seems to stem from drug and alcohol use. Fortunately, the harm inflicted is not as serious as it could have been.

“I accept that yours is true remorse and you are clearly horrified by what you have done.

“I also note that you have good character and have worked for several years providing valuable assistance to people as a career.”

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