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A man has pleaded guilty to attempting to murder an American woman who worked at GCHQ, Britain’s intelligence and eavesdropping centre.
Joshua Bowles stabbed and punched the woman, who has not been identified and was only referred to in court by the code number 99230, at a leisure centre in Cheltenham, three miles from GCHQ.
Bowles, 29, appeared at the Old Bailey on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to attempting to murder 99230 on March 9 this year.
He also admitted assaulting Alex Fuentes, causing him actual bodily harm, when Mr. Fuentes came to the woman’s aid in the car park of the leisure centre.
The hearing was told Bowles, who was a former employee at GCHQ, had researched the victim and other U.S. nationals who worked at the site.
The court heard the woman was employed by the U.S. Government and was stationed at GCHQ at the time of the attack.
Victim had Been Playing Netball
She had taken part in a netball game at the leisure centre in Tommy Taylors Lane and was leaving with a friend at 9:15 p.m. on March 9 when Bowles launched his attack in the car park.
The victim and her friend ran back into the leisure centre but Bowles chased them and stabbed 99230 again before she found sanctuary in a netball court.
She was taken to hospital after suffering multiple stab wounds.
Bowles also punched Mr. Fuentes after he confronted him in the car park.
The judge, Mrs. Justice Cheema-Grubb, told Bowles she would sentence him in October.
When Bowles made his first appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in March, prosecutor Kathryn Selby said it had been a “planned attack” and was dealt with under the terrorism protocol.
Prosecutor: ‘In his Mind, She Represents the State’
Ms. Selby told the court: “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.”
After Bowles pleaded guilty on Wednesday, Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said, “This extremely violent attack against two innocent people was completely unprovoked.”
He said, “It is right that those who commit violent crimes like this should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to protect the public, and our thoughts continue to be with the victims and their families.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Olly Wright, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, said, “Through our extensive and thorough investigation, it is clear that Bowles had selected his victim because of where she worked.”
He added: “I am pleased that Bowles has taken the decision to plead guilty to these crimes due to the strength of our investigation and evidence against him. This will thankfully spare the victims from having to go through the traumatic process of re-living the events of that day through the trial process.”
Britain is part of the Five Eyes group—an Anglo-sphere intelligence-sharing alliance made up of the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—and a number of U.S. nationals are based at GCHQ at any one time.
GCHQ is home to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which earlier this year warned of the increasing danger to infrastructure from Chinese hackers.
Originally known as the Government Code and Cypher School, GCHQ was founded just after the First World War in Watergate House, in London, and was designed to build on the work of the signals intelligence corps during the war.
In 1951 GCHQ moved to a purpose-built site on the outskirts of Cheltenham which, since 2003, has housed around 5,000 workers in a distinctive building known as The Doughnut.
In November 2003, Katharine Gun, a GCHQ worker, was charged under the Official Secrets Act after she handed over information to The Observer newspaper which alleged the United States had conducted a spying operation on the representatives of six countries whose votes on the United Nations Security Council would be key to whether the U.N. approved the invasion of Iraq.
In February 2004 the prosecution offered no evidence against Ms. Gun, who said, “I have no regrets and I would do it again.”
PA Media contributed to this report.