It’s just a few weeks since Miles, terrified, was hiding beneath a parked van in a rapidly spreading pool of his own blood
Looking at Miles Hurley, it is clear good genes run in the family.
The tousle-haired nephew of British actress and model Elizabeth Hurley, himself a model for top fashion houses Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli, is effortlessly handsome in a white designer T-shirt and jeans to make the most of the spring sunshine.
If he appears a little pale, or winces a little as he shifts his weight in the wooden outdoor chair, he glosses over it with a good-natured charm.
It is hard to imagine that it’s just a few weeks since Miles, terrified, was hiding beneath a parked van in a rapidly spreading pool of his own blood from two deep stab wounds to his back, praying he would not be discovered
It was a kind of horror that Miles, 21, could never have possibly imagined. Nor could he have anticipated that he would become yet another knife crime statistic during a year which has seen London’s murder rate overtake New York for the first time.
In an ordeal which made headlines across the country, Miles and a friend were pursued in a high-speed car chase by a group of young men after the most minor of traffic collisions.
They were assaulted, stabbed with a large kitchen knife and, as he explains today in his first dramatic interview, he came just millimetres from death.
His words will make difficult reading for parents everywhere.
‘I had a guardian angel that night,’ he says, simply. ‘I lost six pints of blood. The doctors thought I’d perforated my liver and clipped one of my major arteries. But everything they feared could have happened, didn’t. They said I was stabbed twice, in the same place. That the knife didn’t hit my spinal cord or arteries all came down to angles and millimetres.’
So violent were his assailants, they first attempted to force him into the boot of his own car, threatening abduction and an unspeakable fate, before plunging the knife four inches into his back.
It is a minor miracle that he managed to escape, or that he is with us here today.
It is at Elizabeth Hurley’s £6 million Herefordshire estate where Miles has been recovering from his wound, a broad, livid red slash which crosses over his spine on his lower back
It was the presence of a quick-thinking Good Samaritan – who called an ambulance and gave Miles his jumper to put pressure on the wound – that caused the attackers to flee the scene.
And it was Auntie Elizabeth – known affectionately in the family as ‘Minx’ – who he rang first from his hospital bed, who flew from New York to be by his side, and who has been posting updates on his condition on Instagram.
It is at Elizabeth Hurley’s £6 million Herefordshire estate where Miles has been recovering from his wound, a broad, livid red slash which crosses over his spine on his lower back. Still fresh, it stopped bleeding only last week after becoming infected, but he knows he is surrounded by family. His mother Katie Hurley, 54, Elizabeth’s elder sister, lives in a three-bedroom cottage on the same estate.
Reliving his ordeal today, Miles sits awkwardly, clearly in some discomfort, his hands shaking almost imperceptibly. He admits he is lucky to be alive.
His mother, sitting by his side, is in tears at some of the more graphic details, some of which she is only now hearing herself for the first time.
Still fresh, it stopped bleeding only last week after becoming infected, but he knows he is surrounded by family
Miles, too, remains in shock.
‘I’m not sleeping well. During the day you’re distracted but at night you’re alone with your thoughts,’ he says. ‘You never think this sort of thing can happen to you. I hadn’t come into contact with this kind of violence before. It wasn’t something I thought about. You assume it stays between gangs, but it doesn’t. No-one can escape it.
‘I’m wary about coming back to London because my attackers are still out there. But I’m determined to come back because I love the city and if I let them affect my life then they’ve won.’
Miles grew up in South-West London with Katie, a single mother, and his older sister Amelia, 23, and has always been close to Auntie Elizabeth, who he describe as ‘my second mum’. From time to time, he works as a farm labourer on her estate.
He attended the fee-paying Emanuel School in Battersea but even a prestigious education was no protection from the culture of gangs and knife crime that has taken such a hold in London. His friends have all been through attempted muggings. ‘In London, the default position is you assume someone has a knife. It feels like it’s a mental health issue, guys looking for some kind of power or authority or status,’ he explains. ‘They’d say, “Where are you going? Can we come?” while holding a knife in their hands. I never told Mum.’
Miles believed his only option was to try to lose them and turned down some back streets he knew. Pictured: The scene of the stabbing
It was in March of this year that his life changed for ever – and so nearly came to a terrible end. Miles and his friend Romell had decided to visit an art exhibition in Vauxhall, South London. It was shortly before 9pm and Miles was at the wheel of his mother’s beige Fiat 500 – ‘not very manly,’ he quips – and indicating to merge into another lane.
He recalls there being ‘plenty of room’ until a black hatchback suddenly sped up behind him and, in blocking him, caused a minor collision, little more than a touch.
‘I was thinking, “Oh God, it’s Mum’s car”. I wound down my window to ask the driver to pull over further up to exchange details.’
Miles is assiduously polite and mild-mannered and it is impossible to imagine him getting into an argument. Indeed, road rage, he says, ‘doesn’t make sense to me’. But what should have been a straightforward conversation immediately turned nasty when the five men in the car began screaming and swearing.
‘It was all, “What the f*** do you think you’re doing?”
‘The two cars were within touching distance, which I realised when the guy in the passenger side suddenly threw a punch at my head through the open windows.
‘The adrenalin kicked in – it was fight or flight. My friend just said, “Drive!”, so I slammed my foot down. I heard them screaming, “chase him, chase him”.’
Miles believed his only option was to try to lose them and turned down some back streets he knew. Heart pounding, he parked the car, unwilling to prolong a chase and convinced they could shake off their pursuers. But seconds later, the men pulled up alongside them in the dark street.
‘They got out and the driver, the aggressor, circled us. I tried to talk my way out of it and said something like, “So are we going to exchange insurance details?”. He said: “Nah, actually. You can give me your car keys and get in the f****** boot.”
‘All I could think of was that I didn’t want to get in that boot – I didn’t want to imagine what could happen if I did. They were trying to grab the keys, which I put in my pocket, so the driver put his hands around my neck, and that’s when I realised they were going to force me into the boot. They were pushing and pulling me. I had to hit the driver in the face.’
Miles was pushed up against the car, his back to the men, when he felt an aggressive shove. He never saw a knife but now knows he and Romell were stabbed.
‘I heard them shouting: “Poke him, poke him.” I didn’t feel anything, there was no pain. I had no idea I’d been stabbed.’
Romell screamed at Miles to run. Astonishingly, they made it 200 yards around the corner and threw themselves underneath a parked van while the men piled back into their own car. ‘I closed my eyes and heard the car screeching down the middle of the road and knew I couldn’t get up. I started feeling around and found a big pool of blood.’ That’s when Miles looked up and saw a tall man on the phone, saying: ‘There’s two people who’ve been stabbed.’
‘The men in the car saw him and sped off. It was a huge moment of relief. He was like my guardian angel, but I don’t know who he was. He gave me his jumper to put pressure on my wound. I can’t thank him enough.’
Within five minutes, the police arrived, followed ten minutes later by an ambulance. Miles believes he was drifting in and out of consciousness but does remember trying to apply lessons learned from watching Quentin Tarantino’s gory cult classic, Kill Bill, on how to survive stab wounds.
‘I wasn’t thinking how I was going to die. I knew people didn’t die instantly from stab wounds because the adrenalin keeps you alive. So I just kept wiggling my toes, kept calm and tried to keep my heart rate low.’
They were taken to St George’s Hospital where Miles made a call to Elizabeth, terrified his mum would attempt to drive through the night from Herefordshire, and potentially have a crash of her own.
‘I said, “Minx, where are you?” She replied, “In New York”. So I told her I was in hospital but that I would only tell her what happened if she promised not to call my mum. She called me a pest – she thought I was drunk, probably from the morphine. Eventually, I told her I’d been stabbed and she freaked out. She did very well to keep calm, and told me that she needed to get someone to be with me.’
She did, however, call her sister but didn’t manage to get hold of her for some hours so it was the following morning that Katie got to the hospital. Elizabeth herself cancelled a number of work engagements to be at her nephew’s bedside.
Over the next five days, Miles was assessed and found to be extremely lucky. The knife had narrowly missed his liver, spinal cord and, most seriously, a major artery, all by millimetres.
Doctors also told him the thick leather jacket he had been wearing had likely saved his life by absorbing some of the blow. He had 13 stitches – ‘lucky 13,’ he now jokes.
Even now, it’s hard for Katie to think about how close she came to losing her son. Tearfully, she says: ‘It’s your worst nightmare, but if you have a teenager in London you have to be aware that it might happen. I don’t like him out of my sight at the moment.’ Initially, Miles struggled to walk and his progress was delayed by an infection and a rip to his stitches.
It has clearly been an agonising time as well as a troubling one. Bristol University student Romell, who had been stabbed in the ribs but also escaped serious injury, moved to stay with the family for the first two weeks of his recovery too, which helped Miles to process what happened ‘enormously’.
And then there’s Elizabeth. ‘Liz has cancelled loads of things to be with us and has seemed the most free she’s been in years,’ says Miles.
‘She’s been incredible, calling and texting every day, reminding me not to do too much and to let mum do everything for me.’
He is understandably nervous of returning to London. With his attackers still on the loose, he fears reprisals.
Part of dealing with the trauma has involved researching knife crime in the capital. The statistics have left Miles shocked. He and Elizabeth are now determined to support prevention strategies to reduce the number of knives on London’s streets and are keen to get involved with a pressure group.
‘It’s complex – there are so many reasons for knife violence. Mental health issues, depression, gang culture, status or peer pressure. I think a lot of people don’t care. To any normal person, a road rage stabbing is shocking, incomprehensible, but they think, “So what?” And they move on. Whatever else is going on in their lives clouds it.’
He does have a plea for Home Secretary Amber Rudd. ‘We need to learn from Scotland, where knife crime dropped after increasing the number of stop and searches, introducing mandatory sentencing for carrying a weapon and programmes to rehabilitate offenders away from gang culture,’ he says.
‘Yet in 2016/17, there were more than 295,600 stop and searches in London – a quarter of those which took place in 2011/12. Since then, knife crime has gone up 23 per cent. I understand there are problems with stop and search in terms of who is stopped but let’s aim for more and see what happens. We need to do something – I’m proof it can happen to anyone.’
Although he can’t remember their faces, the attackers are always on his mind and Miles is prepared to go to court to make sure they ‘reap the consequences for what they did’.
So far, however, despite a police investigation and the release of CCTV imagery from the attack, there have been no arrests.
‘I’ve had days when I’ve been angry. I’ve had days when I’ve almost felt sorry for them. I’ve had days I’ve wanted to forgive them.
‘I genuinely feel if they’re as young as we estimated – between 19 and 22 – maybe one or two of them might grow up and regret it and feel sick.
‘I certainly hope so.’