London - A grieving British husband armed with a machete launched a terrifying attack on a church hall singing group because he was angry at God for his wife’s painful death from cancer.

The unemployed man allegedly punched, kicked and battered five elderly people including an 84-year-old woman at St Barnabas Church in Orpington, Kent.

The terrified party, part of the Velvet Harmony barbershop singing group, locked themselves inside the hall, turned off the lights and closed the curtains after hearing windows breaking outside.

But as they waited for the police to arrive the man, who was wearing a mask with a Mohican hairstyle, smashed his way in and attacked the singers, aged in their 60s and 80s, as they tried to flee.

He was only stopped when he was wrestled to the ground by Stephen Izegbu, a careworker who had seen the violence erupt from his flat across the road.

Izegbu, 28, said: “He wanted to kill. He would have murdered everyone inside that church.

“As I tried to pin him back he shouted ‘I am the devil and I will kill you all’. You could see in his eyes that he meant it.”

Izegbu received head injuries but said he could not have sat back. He said: “I was only in my pyjamas but I ran out to stop him. He was punching an old lady in the face and hitting her with a walking stick. I had to do something.”

Singer Jane Livesay, 67, on Wednesday described the attacker as a “man possessed”.

Reliving Tuesday night’s drama she said: “We were rehearsing in the church hall when someone burst in and said a madman with a dog was smashing up the vicarage.

“Then one of the church members said he’d broken into the church and was heading this way. We panicked. We began stacking tables in front of the side door to stop him getting in but it wasn’t long before we heard him smashing at the door. He burst in through the tables waving an iron bar like a man possessed. He had this mask on, it was like something out of a bad dream.

“We unlocked the front door to get out but he got to some of our elderly members as we fled. One, Yvonne Burr, is 84 and was on crutches after two hip operations in a year. He punched her in the face and kicked her while she was on the floor.

“He had taken Yvonne’s walking stick and began using it as a weapon. He broke it into three pieces by hitting people who tried to stop him. He only stopped when a gentleman ran over and confronted him on the front lawn.

“Despite a battering, the gentleman managed to grab the madman by his waist and fling him to the ground. After that another gentleman jumped on top of him to keep him restrained.

“I walked through the church where he’d been after the police had taken him away and there was blood all along his path. On the floor, on the bricks, the furniture.

“We only found out later he had a machete, I dread to think what could have happened had he used it. I’m just thankful nobody was killed.”

Gillian Page, 68, a retired teacher, described how she was punched as she tried to defend Burr.

She said: “I was trying to stop him and he hit me with his fist, then I went down. I was almost knocked out. I was begging him, saying ‘Please don’t hit her’. He was kicking her and she was lying there moaning. I thought he was going to kill her.”

On Wednesday night family and friends said the alleged attacker has struggled to cope with his grief following the death of his wife of 35 years from cancer at the age of 54 last year.

His father told the Daily Mail: “He has been terribly upset. He hasn’t been able to come to terms with her death. She had stomach cancer for a long time. He did everything he could for her.”

A family friend added: “He was distraught after his wife died. He went to pieces. Since then he has become increasingly strange. The police have been called to his house a number of times but they have not done anything.”

Malcolm Holland, 56, has been arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage. - Daily Mail