A Falmouth woman narrowly escaped with her life after her husband of 50 years attacked her, stabbing her with such ferocity that his knife broke and he had to find another to continue the assault, a court has heard.

Barrie Gresson, 77, of Wellington Terrace, gravely injured his wife, Margaret, in an unprovoked attack in their own home in September last year, Truro Crown Court heard on Friday.

Gresson, who suffers from mental health issues, followed his wife into the kitchen and asked her what she had done with his wallet, with a knife in his hand and a ‘stern’ look on his face.

He then stabbed her repeatedly, to the point that the blade snapped, and reached into the drawer for another knife to prolong the attack.

Mrs Gresson was able to get away and took refuge in a neighbouring flat, but was left with several wounds including a punctured lung.

The court heard how Gresson, who suffers from bipolar disorder, had been out of hospital for less than a week when the incident occurred, and was worried that he would be sent back.

Tom Bradnock, for the prosecution, told the court how there had been no record of domestic abuse between the married couple, but there had been problems since Gresson lost his job in 1997.

He said: “Mrs Gresson got up about 7am that morning in the couple's flat and Mr Gresson got up shortly after her and walked straight up to her with a stern look on his face, and in his right hand was a knife with a five-inch blade.

“He said, ‘where’s my wallet’ and stabbed her in the leg.

“She told him to think of the children, and he said he had.

“She then tried to call the police but he knocked the telephone out of her hand and continued to stab her until the blade of the knife snapped.”

Mr Bradnock then said Gresson got another knife from a drawer and continued to stab his wife.

After Gresson was arrested he refused to talk to police, but was interviewed by mental health professionals who confirmed that he was suffering from serious mental health issues.

Mr Bradnock continued: “He showed no regret for what he had done, except for the fact that he would be returned to hospital for life and the impact this would have on his children.”

In a victim impact statement, Mrs Gresson said that she never wanted to see her husband again, and described the attack as “the most horrendous experience of my life.”

Prior to the hearing Gresson was being held in St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton, where he was treated by psychiatrist Dr Jeremy Sandbrook.

Dr Sandbrook, who attended the sentencing hearing, said: “Mr Gresson’s condition has been shown to be volatile, clearly his mental illness has associations with very extreme violence.”

After hearing the evidence, Judge Simon Carr sentenced Gresson - who stood accused of wounding with intent - to a hospital order with restrictions under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act, which will apply for the rest of his life.

Judge Carr said: “You had been discharged from hospital for four or five days when this happened, on that day you attacked your wife with two knives, one with such force that you snapped the blade and inflicted injuries that were life threatening.

“It is quite clear that you suffer from a mental illness and as such a hospital order is necessary.

“This was a violent and sustained attack, if you were back in the community there would be the threat of another attack in the future.”