Transgender athlete from Lancaster admits attempted murder of UK Athletics official

Lauren Jeska, Todmorden Harriers
Lauren Jeska, Todmorden Harriers
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A transgender champion fell runner from Lancaster who represented England has admitted attempting to murder a UK Athletics official by stabbing him in a sports arena.

Lauren Jeska, 41, tried to kill former professional rugby player Ralph Knibbs, 51, with a kitchen knife in a row over whether she would be stripped of her titles.

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

It is understood that a review was to take place into her status as a female athlete because Jeska had been born a man.

It was possible her titles could have been in doubt if UK Athletics ruled that she had had an unfair advantage while competing against women.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed Jeska was a “transgender athlete” following her guilty plea to attempted murder.

A CPS spokesman said: “On 22 March 2016, Lauren Jeska, 42, drove from her home in Wales to the British Athletics headquarters in Perry Barr, Birmingham armed with a number of knives.

“The defendant entered their offices and asked to speak to the victim.

“She was asked to wait in reception, however, Jeska walked into the open plan office and attacked the victim and stabbed him a number of times.

“Colleagues of the victim intervened in an attempt to restrain the defendant. Police were called and the defendant was arrested.”

The CPS and West Midlands Police both confirmed Jeska was transgender which was a factor in her motive for attacking Mr Knibbs.

Sean Kyne, District Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Lauren Jeska had a disagreement with British Athletics officials which escalated and rather than resolve the matter through the appropriate channels, she armed herself with a number of knives, drove from her home in Wales to Birmingham and launched a premeditated and savage attack on the victim which resulted in the victim and his colleagues sustaining a number of life threatening injuries.”

Jeska, now of Machynlleth, Powys, but formerly of Lancaster, who was the women’s 2010, 2011 and 2012 English fell running champion, and 2012 British champion, admitted attempted murder at Birmingham Crown Court.

She appeared by video link at Birmingham Crown Court today, Thursday wearing a grey dress and grey cardigan at the 15-minute hearing.

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

In front of a packed public gallery including Mr Knibbs, Jeska also pleaded guilty to two counts of having a bladed article in a public place, namely two kitchen knives.

But she denied another count of possessing a bread knife as well as a count each of wounding with intent against Mr Begley and Mr Taylor.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that police and paramedics dashed to the Olympic-grade Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, Birmingham, at 10.30am on March 23 to reports of a multiple stabbing.

Former England rugby star Mr Knibbs, the head of human resources and welfare for UK Athletics, was rushed to hospital and stabilised.

Ralph Knibbs was stabbed several times in the head and neck and is still recovering from his injuries six months after the attack, police revealed.

At a previous hearing on March 24, magistrates heard she was found carrying a 12cm kitchen knife, a 13cm kitchen knife and a bread knife.

Prosecutor Richard Atkins QC said: “During the course of the attack on Ralph Knibbs [Mr Begley and Mr Taylor] went to his assistance and both were injured.

“But thankfully their injuries were not of the most serious order and having consulted the victims the pleas to the assaults are acceptable.

“The other matter subject to the not guilty plea was the third knife. This was left in the bag and there seems to be no public interest in proceeding with that one.”

Julie Warburton, defending, said: “I have already taken steps to gain funding for two further reports. The first will finalise the diagnosis in relation to autism.

“The second report is regarding her current state and if there is any medical disposal to available to the court.

“This will take about four weeks from the date the funding is received.”

Adjourning sentence, Judge Phillip Parker QC said: “Your pleas have been accepted and the sentence date has been fixed for November 15.

“In the mean time I remand you in custody.”

Mr Knibbs represented England at under-23 level and played 436 times for Bristol Rugby Football Club and scored 123 tries during his career spanning the 1970s and 1980s.

He famously turned down the chance to go on tour with England to South Africa in 1984 because he opposed apartheid.

He also ruled himself out of the 1988 England tour of Australia and Fiji due to work commitments, making him one of the only players to ever turn down England twice.

In 2007 he was named in The Sunday Times top ten centres of all time.

The British Athletics website states Mr Taylor is the finance director for London 2017, the IAAF World Championships and the IPC Athletics World Championships, which will be held at the capital’s Olympic Park.

It says he took up his position with UK Athletics in 2011 and previously held similar roles with top-flight rugby union club Sale Sharks and the Lawn Tennis Association.

He was also chief executive of Stockport County Football Club.

Before getting involved in sport he was a finance director for ITV for seven years.

According to Mr Begley’s LinkedIn page he has been an accountant with UK Athletics since 2008 and fundraises for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Jeska is listed as being a member of the Yorkshire-based Todmorden Harriers Running Club on the group’s website.

The Alexander Stadium hosts the National Athletics Championships each year and has a capacity for 12,700 spectators. UK Athletics - Britain’s governing body for the sport - is based at the venue.

A spokesperson for UK Athletics said: “We are pleased that today’s admission brings to a close a difficult period for our colleagues following the unprovoked attack on Mr Knibbs and staff at our Alexander Stadium Head Office in Birmingham earlier this year.

“UK Athletics would like to place on the record a number of thanks following events on 22nd March.

“A thank you to staff who reacted quickly in restraining the individual concerned, putting themselves at risk.

“A thank you to staff who worked calmly and yet with urgency to apply what was life-saving first aid to Mr Knibbs.

“Finally a thank you to all staff and colleagues not only of UK Athletics but also England Athletics and Birmingham City Council who not only assisted with first aid to Mr Knibbs and the police investigation with witness statements and detailed accounts, but most crucially have supported each other in the aftermath of the incident.”