Norfolk stab mum turned life around

Steve DownesA Norfolk mum of two who was the victim of a frenzied knife attack almost 10 years ago has told how she has got her life and career backSteve Downes

A Norfolk mum of two who was the victim of a frenzied knife attack almost 10 years ago has told how she has 'got her life and career back'.

Julie Cooper's disfigured face shocked the nation in 2000 when she was set upon by a mystery knifeman on a footpath near County Hall while walking back to work at the end of her lunch hour.

She underwent about 10 operations to repair her face - and had to cope with the psychological scars as well as she attempted to rebuild her life at just 26.

Now Mrs Cooper has sent a defiant message to her attacker - who has never been caught - by becoming one of the first people in England to gain a high-level qualification for school business managers.

A few days after picking up her qualification, she told the EDP how learning had restored her confidence and helped her get to a 'good place' in her life.

And she said: 'I wouldn't let that person win by doing more damage to me than the physical damage.'

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Mrs Cooper is now a school business manager at Wymondham High after a few years of juggling work and study as she progressed to an advanced diploma of school business management.

She is one of just 72 people to have graduated with the diploma, and said: 'It's very nice to be recognised for something that I've done, rather than something that happened almost 10 years ago. I am so pleased with what I have done.'

Mrs Cooper was attacked in August 2000 as she walked back to her office at a print company. She was repeatedly slashed with a craft knife or kitchen knife. Her upper and lower jaws were broken, her cheek cut to the bone and teeth knocked out.

The attack made headlines and featured on the BBC's Crimewatch programme.

She is now 36, and is the mother of Bethany, 13, and 12-year-old Lauren. The family lives in a village to the south-west of Norwich.

She said: 'I've been following the National College of School Leadership bursar development programme since 2004.

'It has helped me to use my financial skills and to improve learning opportunities for the children at the school. I make sure money is spent in the best way, to give them the best education possibilities.'

Following the attack her 'first reaction was to get everything back to normal'. 'I tried going back to the job I was doing at the time, training to be an accountant at a firm opposite County Hall in Norwich. I couldn't deal with stress and it was right near where the incident happened.

'I had two young daughters. I wanted to make sure they were OK and to rebuild myself. I had to find a new normal.'

Once the girls were at school she began work again, this time in their school office, progressing from there.

'Working in a school and doing the course has given me the opportunity to rebuild my career. You can either get on and deal with it or let it affect you for the rest of your life.'

Mrs Cooper said there were some legacies from the attack, but she was determined to face them by pushing herself to 'do uncomfortable things'.

'On the physical side I'm left with a scar. I hate having my photo taken because I don't smile properly.'

And, reflecting on the decade that had passed since the dreadful August 2000 day, she said: 'I cannot believe it is nearly 10 years now. It's like having two different lives - pre and post the attack.'