A man has been jailed for life for attempting to murder a woman who was pushing a child in a buggy.
Mentally-ill violent offender Mark Brazant, 44, was warned he may never be released by a judge at the Old Bailey, as he was sentenced for attempting to murder Josephine Conlon as she pushed her child in a buggy in Streatham, south-west London.
The paranoid scizophrenic was left free to strike after going missing on his release from Thameside Prison on Christmas Eve 2019.
The sentence comes with a minimum hybrid hospital and custodial term of 11 years.
Mrs Conlon was was stabbed repeatedly in the face and neck as she pushed her young daughter in a pushchair. She was returning home after meeting friends at a bakery in Streatham, and was on the phone to her mother when she was set on by her paranoid attacker on December 30.
She previously said her “life is on hold” but she feels lucky her injuries were not fatal.
The 36-year-old was attacked near her home in Streatham after meeting with friends on the afternoon of December 30 last year.
Her assailant, mentally ill violent offender Mark Brazant, had only been released from jail on Christmas Eve when he crossed paths with Mrs Conlon and launched the unprovoked attack.
Brazant, who had 19 previous convictions, stabbed her seven times on the face and neck before running off, and handed himself in to police on January 2.
Neighbours were alerted when they heard Mrs Conlon’s “blood-curdling scream”, and she recalled how she feared he was going to rape her before he fled.
Judge Angela Rafferty QC described it as a “ferocious, unprovoked attack” and said Brazant was “totally unpredictable”.
She told him: “It is not possible to say when you will no longer be a risk.”
Sentencing him at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, the judge said: “It can only be imagined the horror and terror Josephine Conlon must have felt for her child.
“It’s quite apparent to me that Josephine Conlon showed extreme courage when you attacked her, she was not the defenceless woman you thought you had at your mercy. She fought back.”
Brazant, wearing a dark blue shirt and a face mask, had an intermediary in the dock next to him to explain proceedings throughout the hearing.
In a victim impact statement read at Brazant’s sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Wednesday afternoon, Mrs Conlon said: “It has been almost nine months since the attack and although I worked really hard to rehabilitate myself, it feels my life is on hold.
“I struggle with large crowds and I am unable to leave my house after dark.
“I am a very positive and social person and I love being busy. Before the attack I used to pack my weekends and evenings full.
“There have been periods where I have been very low… and it took me six months before I could go back to work.
“The physical wounds have been very hard to come to terms with. Having said that, I have been lucky – all I have is a few scars.
“I also feel I failed my daughter for walking her into such a dangerous situation and witnessing the attack on me. It could have been so different.”
The court heard that Mrs Conlon’s employer provided security outside her home in the days after the attack, while Brazant was still at large, in an attempt to make her feel safe.
She told the court Brazant’s words of remorse were “hollow and meaningless”.
Mrs Conlon also spoke of unwanted press attention following the stabbing, with some members of her family and friends finding out about the incident through media coverage.
She said the trial process was “difficult”, and some members of the press approached her outside court, while another waited for her near her home – something she described as feeling “like a low blow”.
Her husband, Greg Conlon, said in a victim impact statement read in court that he had to be careful where he stood in relation to his wife so as not to frighten her.
He added: “I hope one day we can get our life back as before. There will always be a shadow of what happened.”
Mrs Conlon was discharged from hospital the day after the attack but continues to have treatment for scars to her face and neck, the court heard previously.
Chilling CCTV showed the moment Brazant chose Josephine as his victim as the strangers crossed paths on a pavement.
In the video, Brazant stops in front of a shop for a few seconds and then turns and follows her moments before knifing her seven times in the face and neck in a random attack.
The violent offender had been travelling all over London for hours on public transport in search of a victim before attacking Mrs Conlon, according to Met Police.
During his trial, Brazent said he told himself “that’s enough, that will do” and left after stabbing the mum.
As she screamed loudly and tried to flee, Mrs Conlon could feel blood and “things dripping”, and managed to get back onto her feet as the attacker ran off.
Brazant dramatically changed his plea at the Old Bailey and admitted trying to kill the 36-year-old mum. He was convicted in August and sentencing was scheduled to today.
In the CCTV footage, Mrs Conlon is seen pushing the pram as she and Brazant walk past each other in front of a shop on the afternoon of December 30 last year.
Brazant stops in front of the shop and stands against the window for a few seconds.
He then looks in the direction of Mrs Conlon and her baby, and walks after her.
Brazant, who had gone AWOL upon being freed from jail on Christmas Eve, stabbed her seven times in the face and neck before running off.
During his trial, he said he chose Mrs Conlon because she was small and pushing a buggy, and didn’t think she would fight back.
He had denied meaning to seriously injure Mrs Conlon and a jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict despite more than 40 hours of deliberations.
But he later admitted attempted murder after the prosecution called for a retrial.
Previously, the court had heard how Brazant had a history of attacking lone women for no reason and had a conviction for carrying a blade.
In January 2017, he collided with a woman, swore at her, grabbed her arm and shoved her away.
On November 26 last year, he attacked four women on the same day, grabbing one by the neck after accusing her of smiling at him, and punching another for laughing.
He pleaded guilty to three charges of battery and one of common assault, but was released on licence from Thameside Prison on Christmas Eve to spend a year on post-sentence supervision.
On his release, he reported to the probation service but records show he was asked to return the following week as Thameside had sent him to the wrong office.
Brazant was reported missing after he failed to turn up at a supported house for people with mental health problems where he was meant to stay.
On December 30 last year, Mrs Conlon was returning home after meeting other new mothers at a local bakery.
CCTV footage showed the moment she crossed paths with Brazant in the street, prompting the defendant to follow her.
Mrs Conlon told jurors that she first realised she was “in danger” when she was shoved forcefully in the back.
She fell into a driveway, and the buggy containing her baby daughter rolled on to the kerb and became wedged next to a parked car.
Mrs Conlon told jurors: “I remember thinking he had pushed me into the driveway because he was going to rape me.
“Then he didn’t, he just started hitting me.
“I realised I was being stabbed. I was screaming a lot because I was not in the road so I wanted somebody to hear me.
“I was ducking and trying to get away and trying to get up on to my feet.
“I could feel blood. The adrenaline took away pain but I could feel things dripping.”
She added: “I managed to get up on my feet and that’s when he turned and ran away.”
She screamed for help and neighbours came to her aid before medics arrived.
Mrs Conlon, who was supported in court by her husband Greg, was discharged from hospital the next day but continues to have treatment for scars to her face and neck, the court heard.
In the early hours of January 2, Brazant walked into Wandsworth police station carrying a knife, and said he had “stabbed a person on the street two days earlier”.
During his trial, Brazant, of Ealing, west London, had denied he intended to kill Mrs Conlon, saying he was hearing voices telling him to hurt someone.
He said he chose Mrs Conlon because she was small, female, pushing a buggy and he did not think she would fight back.
Having stabbed her repeatedly, he told himself “that’s enough, that will do” and left, he said.
The court heard Brazant was on medication for his mental health condition but had stopped taking it.
He had admitted unlawful wounding, but denied attempted murder and an alternative charge of wounding with intent.
Brazant entered his new guilty plea via video link from Three Bridges medium secure hospital.
Mrs Conlon sat in court with her husband by her side.
Defence lawyer Oliver Renton said: “This is not a matter which has been unaffected by the inability because of the current pandemic to be heard again this year.
“Mr Brazant was told the matter could not be resolved until 2021 at trial and his pleas follow on from that.”
Mr Renton said his client was “paranoid and sleep-deprived” at the time, “wandering the streets and sleeping on buses”, and added: “But for his mental illness, the attack would never have been carried out.”
Speaking after the hearing, Acting Detective Sergeant Mark Pascall, said: “I am pleased with today’s result as Brazant originally claimed he wasn’t in sound mind at the time but his words and actions following the attack showed otherwise. It was clear Brazant had a clear intent that day to cause harm. He is dangerous and unpredictable.
“We have no idea why he chose the victim he did but thankfully, and luckily, she wasn’t more seriously injured.
“I would like to thank the investigation team for extremely thorough enquiries that meant we were able to charge him so quickly and take him off the streets on London.
“I commend the victim for her bravery throughout the trial and courage to give evidence in front of the man who caused her serious harm.”