Cheltenham stabbing suspect 'targeted woman believing she worked at GCHQ'

16 March 2023, 20:41 | Updated: 17 March 2023, 00:20

Joshua Bowles (L) allegedly stabbed a woman because he believed she worked for intelligence agency GCHQ, a court has heard.
Joshua Bowles (L) allegedly stabbed a woman because he believed she worked for intelligence agency GCHQ, a court has heard. Picture: PA / Alamy

By Chris Samuel

A man allegedly stabbed a woman because he believed she worked for intelligence agency GCHQ, a court has heard.

Joshua Bowles, 29, is charged with attempted murder and causing actual bodily harm.

He was remanded in custody after a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Thursday.

Joshua Bowles, 29, allegedly stabbed the woman as she left a leisure centre in Cheltenham at about 21:15 GMT on 9 March, three miles from the agency's base.

The woman suffered a stab wound to her abdomen, which pierced her liver, another wound in the leg and one in her chest.

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She required emergency surgery and spent time in the intensive care unit being treated.

The woman, who has not been named in court, is in a stable condition in hospital, police had said.

A court sketch of Joshua Bowles at Westminster Magistrates Court, Thursday, March 16, 2023.
A court sketch of Joshua Bowles at Westminster Magistrates Court, Thursday, March 16, 2023. Picture: PA

Bowles was arrested 9.30pm at the scene of the attack in Tommy Taylors Lane.

The following day he was re-arrested on suspicion of preparing an act of terrorism and charged under section 1 of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.

Kathryn Selby, prosecuting, told Westminster Magistrates' Court: "This was a serious incident of attempted murder. At this stage we ask for the matter to be dealt with under the [terrorism] protocol."

She said the defendant "has selected the victim because he believed she is a worker for GCHQ and holds views on the work he believes they conduct.

“He attacked the victim because, in his mind, she represents the state.”

Ms Selby said it was a "planned attack" and that the Bowles had "travelled to the leisure centre on 9 March, taking two knives".

GCHQ the Government Communications Headquarters
GCHQ the Government Communications Headquarters. Picture: Getty

"He waited for her outside the leisure centre," Ms Selby told the court.

"When she left with a friend, he has gone up to her and punched and attacked her with a knife - first in the car park and, when she tries to escape into the leisure centre, he attacked her there," she said.

Bowles has also been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm on Alex Fuentes in the same incident, under section 47 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

Appearing in court on Thursday, Bowles spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address. There was no application for bail.

He is remanded in custody ahead of a hearing at the Old Bailey on March 31.

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