A 17-year-old told a court he thought a 50-year-old woman he stabbed in the chest was a gang member who had beaten him up previously.

Thomas Waeling, now 18, said in a police interview he did not intend to kill anyone but wanted to show he was “not someone to push around”.

He saw a person in a black coat who he said he recognised as a boy who chased him before. Waeling, armed with a 15cm kitchen knife, “hurled” himself at the person and stabbed them in the chest and arm, causing a punctured lung and internal bleeding.

But the person was a complete stranger called Sarah Taylor, 50, who was walking home from a nearby Lidl carrying two shopping bags when she was attacked just off Bohemia Road, Hastings, on May 15.

She was airlifted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and survived but now has mobility issues in her arm after being stabbed multiple times.

Waeling, of Kenilworth Road in St Leonards, admits causing GBH with intent and possessing a knife but denies attempted murder.

He always took a hammer or knife out with him, Lewes Crown Court heard. He had the large kitchen knife with him that day because he could not find the hammer.

Ms Taylor told police it was the “biggest knife she had ever seen”.

Waeling told police he never left the house without a balaclava or scarf to hide his face so the boys who had chased him did not recognise him. He took back roads to avoid trouble and would not go into Hastings town centre.

The Argus: Waeling wearing a hoodie and scarf over his face in a park nearby to where he attacked Ms Taylor Waeling wearing a hoodie and scarf over his face in a park nearby to where he attacked Ms Taylor (Image: Sussex Police)

Waeling told police: “I bring the tool out for self-defence. I clock the person crossing with a black hood up. It looked like someone called Alfie who chased me previously.

“They started to jog into the bushes. I started to chase them. We got to where all the bushes are. As they turn around I stab them in the arm and then run away.

“I was getting a bit fed up because I could not walk anywhere safely (without getting chased or beaten up).

“I saw that as an opportunity not to murder but to scare them so they did not do anything back to me. I never stabbed someone before, I did not know really what to do.

“The whole time I have lived in Hastings I have been chased with knives and beaten up.

“I did it as I thought I would show that I am not someone to push around."

Police asked him what he meant when he said he wanted to “get it done”.

“I just thought I would do one thing back, they might leave me alone,” he said.

The court heard that in one incident, Waeling was accused of “stepping on” a group of people, another term for wanting to start a fight, near Bottle Alley in Hastings.

The gang, which he said were called “The Warrior Lot” from the Warrior Square area, would target him two or three times a month when they saw him.

Waeling told the court he was scared of the group.

“I have been beaten up, threatened at knife point and chased,” he said. “One of them booted me in the chest. I had a swollen face, two black eyes, bruised ribs. It made me frightened, I could not go out on my own, it was scary.”

Neil Fitzgibbon, defending, asked Waeling about seeing a video of Ms Taylor in the police interview room which was played in court on Tuesday.

Wailing said: “I feel terrible, horrible, I could not bear listening to it, it traumatised me to be honest.

“I did not go out with the intention to kill someone.

“It kept me up at night, I know it sounds weird as I’m not the victim but I felt traumatised.”

Asked what he would say to Ms Taylor if she was in court, he said: “I would say sorry to her, I know it would not mean much to her. I could not imagine how she would have felt at the time.”

Mr Fitzgibbon also asked Waeling about his upbringing which made him emotional. He said it was difficult and involved “a lot of drugs” in his household. Waeling was sent into foster care but ended up living with his grandmother in Margate, Kent, before moving to Hastings with his parents in February 2022.

The Argus: Forensics teams investigating on May 16Forensics teams investigating on May 16 (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

Philip Stott, prosecuting, said Waeling’s friend Thomas Mann, 19, who was with him at the time identified Ms Taylor was a woman from her build, despite her coat.

Waeling said he could not tell.

“You could not possibly assume it was Alfie without seeing their face,” said Mr Stott.

“You did not think it was Alfie. You thought it was someone carrying things so they could not defend themselves.

“You would have been face to face with a woman in her 50s, you decided to push your knife hard into her chest.

“Why did you choose someone with two shopping bags? Why did you stab repeatedly when you had no intention to kill someone? Why did you stab her in the chest?”

Thomas Mann burnt his friend’s clothes at around 1am on May 16. He was asked by Waeling to do this.

The Argus: Forensics teams at the site of the burnt clothesForensics teams at the site of the burnt clothes (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

The court was shown a video of the smouldering clothes taken by Mr Mann in which he says “nearly gone”.

Mr Stott described Waeling as calculated in his approach after the stabbing by asking friends to bring fresh clothes and burn his old ones.

The trial continues.