Survivor tells of throat being slit

STITCHED UP: Mark Wells feels he had a lucky escape.
Fairfax NZ
STITCHED UP: Mark Wells feels he had a lucky escape.

Holding a blood-soaked towel to his throat wound, slashing victim Mark Wells thought he might not make it as he staggered towards a Nelson dairy on Friday afternoon.

A man has been charged with attempted murder, and Wells, 51, is in no doubt that he could have died.

"I was in survival mode. My mind told me to go to that shop. I was getting weaker and weaker," he told the Nelson Mail.

Minutes before, he had been lying in a pool of blood beside the toilet in the bathroom of his Washington Valley flat, one of three apartments in a dilapidated old villa set up a steep driveway.

He doesn't know how long he lay there but believes it was some time because of the amount of blood that had poured from the wide jagged wound from under his right ear across his windpipe.

"When the detectives came round and took photos, they said it was like a pig got stuck in there. There was blood everywhere."

It was a very different picture the night before. Wells said he had been at home when a woman he had known for many years arrived with a man he had met a couple of times, looking for somewhere to stay. He'd taken them in and there were no problems then or on Friday morning when the couple got up from their makeshift bed on the living room floor and showered.

The woman had said, "The money's in the bank, let's go and get some smokes and a couple of drinks." He said the man had begun drinking at about 9am and was "hounding it down".

"He was pissed. I was sober as."

Although he was feeling "a wee bit uneasy" about some of the man's words and actions, he was surprised when he was suddenly punched, first while he was in the living room and then the kitchen. Because his nose was bleeding, Wells went to the bathroom and crouched over the toilet.

"Within seconds he was behind me saying, ‘I'm going to kill you, Mark'. He pulled my head back and slit my throat."

There was no pain, he said. "All I felt was a warm feeling coming down my throat all of a sudden. I thought it was just a nick. I stood up and looked in the mirror and there was all this flesh hanging down. That's when I freaked out."

He also saw his attacker in the mirror and that is when he believes the man left, after telling him to clean himself up before he went anywhere. Nothing was taken and the man left his backpack behind.

Still mystified by the attack, Wells said he felt lucky to be alive. "He could have kept on going."

The man had mentioned the drug P the night before and the only thing he could think of was that he might have taken it before attacking him.

The woman, whom Wells said had earlier said things like, "You're going to get knifed by the end of the day", had "gone after the first punch" and another visitor who had been known to the attacker but not Wells had left some time before that.

Wells said he had no idea how long it was before he realised he had to get help. As soon as he reached the store the owner was on the phone and within minutes "an ambulance and cop cars were all over the place".

The next thing he remembers is waking up in Nelson Hospital "with cops all around me".

The surgeon who repaired the wound had told him if it had been a fraction deeper he would have been in a lot more danger of losing his life.

"I'm lucky it was a blunt knife."

A former commercial fisherman, Wells is on an invalid's benefit. He said he had suffered from schizophrenia all his life but had recently been discharged from the care of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's mobile community team because he had been doing so well.

He also disputed an earlier report that his flat of six years was a problem in the community because of the drinking sessions there.

That used to be the case, but Wells had cleaned up his act a year ago, he said.

He used to have "drug parties, just marijuana and a bit of other stuff". Now he didn't even have a stereo, and "I only drink once a week".

"I got sick of the cops coming around, I got sick of being arrested, I got sick of drugs, I got sick of alcohol, I got sick of fights, I got sick of waking up in the morning and finding my house covered in half-naked bodies. And the landlord got a wee bit sick of it too."

Wells said he had felt on edge until police told him a man had been arrested for the attack, but intended to stay where he was with his new flatmate, 29-year-old Tim Johnston, who moved to Nelson from Invercargill a fortnight ago.

He had decided to go public with his story after hearing that there had been a stabbing in Nelson early on Sunday.

He would think twice before letting anyone else stay in his flat, and he wanted people to be aware of the dangers.

Johnston, who described the attacker as a massive man not unlike the former professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, had left the house earlier in the day and came home to find police searching it.

He felt he had also had a lucky escape.

Looking across at Wells, he said, "If he'd died. I'd have been a suspect straight away. That really freaked me out."

The Nelson Mail