A 29-year-old who was abducted, stabbed eight times and left for dead as a little girl is appealing to find a woman who “saved her life” 20 years ago.
Kitrina McKenzie was just nine when she was taken from the street outside her grandmother’s home in Longstone, forced onto a bus and taken to an underground car park at Edinburgh’s Fountain Park leisure complex to endure the terrifying ordeal in broad daylight.
Shockingly, her attacker Darren Cornelius was just 11 years old at the time.
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News nearly 20 years on, Kitrina recalled the horror of the stabbing and aftermath that day when he told her to “stay down there” while fleeing up some metal stairs leading to the car park’s emergency exit – but she managed to crawl up the steps and stagger towards a nearby bus stop.
Kitrina said: “A woman was standing at the bus stop at Fountain Park. She was on the phone and I remember her saying, ‘I need to go, a wee girl needs my help,’ and I told her I had been stabbed and I pulled up my top and then I passed out.”
Kitrina recalled the woman being in her late 20s or early 30s, with brown shoulder length hair and wearing a long coat and a shoulder strap handbag, adding: “If she was not there, I would not be alive.
“I just want to say thank you to her for saving my life as I wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t have been able to see my niece and nephews grow up. I am really hoping she still lives in the area, as I would really like to speak to her and say thanks.”
‘Soaked in blood’
Kitrina suffered stab wounds to her neck, stomach, leg and elbow.
During the attack, Kitrina was stabbed in the neck – close to an artery – and the stomach and suffered wounds to her left elbow and left leg.
Kitrina said she remembered being patched up by paramedics in the ambulance on the way to hospital as she fell in and out of consciousness and was admitted to intensive care for emergency surgery. Her next recollection was being interviewed by police a couple of days later.
Medics at the Sick Kids Hospital told her she was “very lucky” to be alive, having lost so much blood, and that the blade narrowly missed her liver.
She continued: “My mum would not let me leave her sight (after the attack). I used to have nightmares.
“I am waiting on intense psychology and I have been in and out of counselling with psychiatrists my whole adult life.
“I had counselling at the age of nine but only attended a few sessions and never said anything about it. I can talk about it now but only in front of people I trust. It had a big impact on my younger brother as well, he had to go through counselling.”
‘I hope he dies’
The frenzied attack took place around 2pm on October 23, 2000, on the last day of the school half-term holidays. At the time, a Fountain Park spokesperson told the Evening News the incident was captured on CCTV and that footage was passed to police.
Police also questioned drivers as they left the complex to find witnesses and forensic teams carried out searches of the area and later removed a knife from the scene.
A children’s panel hearing ordered Cornelius, who was originally charged with attemped murder, to be locked up for 17 months in secure accommodation. He escaped prosecution as lawyers argued his mental age was below the age of eight, then the age of criminal responsibility.
But Kitrina said the boy was freed after about eight or nine months and was living back at home, not far from her grandmother’s house. Her family had to take out a civil court action to stop the boy from approaching Kitrina and verbally abusing her.
Kitrina added: “I think he should have got longer than he did. He went to a children’s panel and his lawyers said he had the mental age below the age of criminal responsibility, but what kid that young would ever do something like that?
“He (Cornelius) would sometimes turn up at the school and they had to keep me away from him.
“I hope he dies. He does not deserve to be alive.”
When Cornelius was 15, he was tried for sex offences against two girls but the case collapsed due to lack of evidence.
In 2008, a High Court judge imposed an Order for Lifelong Restriction lifelong on Cornelius, which meant he would be monitored for life – and possibly never released from prison – until deemed no longer to be a danger to the public, after knifing Daniel Sweeney the year before in Edinburgh.
The court heard that the serial blade thug – 18 at the time – told police he was stabbing an invisible man called Ian while repeatedly plunging a knife into his victim.
A year later, it emerged that Cornelius once told pals the nine-year-old girl he stabbed repeatedly had deserved to be knifed, after penning a boastful letter to a friend about another assault at an inmate in Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution.
Kitrina said that, to this day, she has no idea why he said she ‘deserved it’.
Cornelius was once dubbed the country’s most dangerous teenager and compared to the killers of tragic toddler Jamie Bulger.