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Catherine stalker in suicide bid

Aug 1 2004

Wales on Sunday


CATHERINE Zeta-Jones has been accused of having "blood on her hands" after her accused stalker tried to commit suicide.

The tables have been turned on the Hollywood actress who has suffered months of trauma at the hands of Dawnette Knight, who wrote numerous letters threatening the Swansea-born beauty.

"We are going to slice her up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs," said one letter read in court by Zeta-Jones.

A Los Angeles judge has ordered a psychological evaluation of Knight at the request of her defence lawyer, who pointed the finger at Zeta outside court.

The case had been suspended earlier this week by Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg because 32-year-old Knight was "groggy".

Originally her defence team said she had taken sleeping pills because she had wanted a good night's sleep.

But in a dramatic turn of events, Mr Herman has claimed she took an overdose of barbiturates.

"This case has turned into Hollywood against Dawnette Knight and it's not a fair fight," he said.

"Catherine Zeta-Jones has driven Dawnette Knight to attempt suicide and the real blood is on her hands."

Knight is accused of one count of stalking and 24 counts of making criminal threats. She is being held on 650,000 bail while the hearing is held to see whether there is enough evidence to put her on trial.

Last month, Knight issued a letter of apology to the Hollywood couple, and asked for forgiveness, blaming an infatuation she had with Zeta's husband Michael Douglas.

But on Friday, Herman said: "Instead of forgiveness we have seen a campaign of vilification in the media which is both mean-spirited and vicious."

The accusation will come as a terrible blow to Catherine, who was verging on a nervous breakdown after receiving 19 letters from the obsessive fan.

Earlier this week, Catherine, 34, described the letters as "satanic", saying the experience would "affect her for the rest of my life".

In one of the letters, Knight - who was allegedly obsessed with Fatal Attraction star Michael Douglas - threatened to have Catherine "shredded to pieces", another included an invitation to the Welsh star's own funeral.

Wearing a long-sleeved black dress, Catherine was visibly shaken as she read the letters to the court.

"I've never in my life had anything or had anyone say anything to me so satanic," said the mum-of-two.

"This will affect me for the rest of my life."

When she wasn't reading, Catherine glared at Knight, who was handcuffed to a chair.

The letters were sent over an 18-month period to Catherine and Michael, as well as staff members, friends and relatives, including Michael's father, film legend Kirk Douglas.

Desperate to spare his wife from the trauma, Michael had initially kept the letters secret.

But when they became more frequent, he was forced to break the disturbing news.

Catherine told the court: "Michael looked at me and said, 'They're pretty bad, honey'.

"I know my husband and I know that look, and I knew it was pretty serious."

In March, two threatening phone calls were made to the Bermuda hotel owned by the Hollywood couple.

And in mid-May, Catherine suffered an anxiety attack after "violent" phone calls were made to her Amsterdam hotel, where she was staying during the filming of Ocean's 12.

She was left feeling faint, sweating and shaking, and had difficulty breathing.

The most frightening thought was knowing her stalker was keeping tabs on her movements, she said.

"It seemed to be closing in on me and getting closer and closer to home and that in itself was horrific," she said.

Michael took Catherine to a doctor, who prescribed medication to calm her nerves.

"The proximity made us terrified," he said. "There was a knowledge in these letters that was deeply unsettling."

On Friday, before suspending the hearing, Judge Patricia Schnegg asked Knight if she understood why she was there, to which Knight replied: "Because of the letters I sent to the Douglases."

She then asked her if she thought she was able to participate in her own defence.

Pointing to her lawyer, Knight replied: "He says I can't so obviously I can't. He's my lawyer."

Judge Schnegg also questioned why Herman had changed his mind over the sleeping pills.

Herman said: "I've reconsidered that and I'm concerned overall about my client's health."

Catherine and Michael were not present during this setback, but prosecution lawyer Debra Archuleta said in a statement: "We are shocked and outraged that the victim in this case, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is being portrayed in this manner.

"We believe these statements by defence counsel to be inappropriate."

Knight will now undergo a series of psychological tests. If she is found to be competent, the hearing will resume after the summer holiday, in September.

If tried and convicted, Knight could face 19 years behind bars.


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