A brush with bravery for Lois

16:00, Dec 01 2013
Lois Kennedy
SUPER GRAN: Lois Kennedy, 84, helped her neighbour, who was being attacked by a man brandishing a samurai sword.

A grandmother who took on a samurai sword-wielding attacker with a hearth brush is among New Zealanders to be recognised for their courage today.

Lois Kennedy, 84, and 16 other Kiwis will receive the New Zealand Bravery Decoration or the New Zealand Bravery Medal - the country's top bravery awards.

Recipients also include Christchurch man Jade Lynn for confronting an armed hijacker in Hoon Hay, two contractors who pulled a woman from a burning car and a policeman who faced a gunman in Phillipstown after his colleagues had been shot. 

bill stirling
BRAVERY REWARDED: Colin Wiggins, rescued 78-year-old kaumatua Bill Stirling, left, from a car crash several years ago and has now been recognised with a bravery award.


Kennedy risked her life to save a neighbour in Christchurch three years ago.

The Parkwood Rest Home & Hospital resident is ''chuffed'' to be recognised, but a little embarrassed by all the attention but said of the incident: ''Don't blow it out of proportion. I don't like to make waves.''


The elderly mother of five, who has badly impaired vision, asthma and walks with a frame, vividly recalls the early morning attack at a block of council flats on St Johns St, Woolston, in January 2011.

It was just getting light when she woke to a disturbance outside.

''I heard a voice saying 'Lois, help me'. I knew immediately what it was.''

Her neighbour's middle-aged son was staying and Kennedy had become worried about his strange behaviour.

She climbed out of bed, picked up a wooden hearth brush stashed near her door and ventured outside.

''I was quite hard of vision at the time so I was virtually walking in the dark.''

Kennedy followed the cries for help and found the man attacking his mother with a samurai sword.

''I just sort of lunged in with my brush and got in two or three whacks.

''I was hitting with one hand and yelling with the other, but nobody came [to help].''

She realised her efforts to stop the attack were not working so she scrambled back inside and phoned police.

They arrested the man - aged 40 at the time - while his mother was taken to Christchurch Hospital with cuts from a blunt samurai sword and bites to her arms, hands and head.

Kennedy suffered an injury to her left hand and also required hospital treatment.


When Mark Allen and Kenneth Reilly came across a head-on car crash on State Highway 1 in North Canterbury, instinct took over. 

One of the cars had caught fire, with the young female driver unconsciousness and trapped by her leg. Her ankles were fractured and her clothing was on fire.

The logging contractors used fire extinguishers on her clothes, then climbed into the burning wreckage to pull her free.

Soon after the entire front of the car was engulfed in flames.

 ''It's definitely a great honour, but I just don't think it was that big a deal,'' Allen said of their actions on May 2, 2011, which earned them both the New Zealand Bravery Medal.

The pair still receive flowers every May 2 from the woman's family as a thank-you.

Reilly did not want to be interviewed. Instead, his wife said he did not think he did anything out of the ordinary so did not want a fuss.


Zakariye Mohamed Hussein had kidnapped Marteine Robin and made her drive him to Hoon Hay, where he stabbed a council worker in his car 11 times.

Police arrived to find Jade Lynn, who lived nearby, holding an iron bar up to a knife-wielding Hussein.

Lynn could not be reached yesterday, but Robin said the medal was ''well deserved''.


Constable Mike Wardle is matter-of-fact when he recalls stepping past a shot colleague to confront a rifleman.

Now a sergeant based in Nelson, he has been awarded the New Zealand Bravery decoration for confronting the gunman at the Buccleugh St, Phillipstown flat in July, 2010.

Gunman Christopher Graham Smith shot officers Bruce Lamb and Mitch Alatalo, and fatally wounded police dog Gage.

Wardle, who was armed only with a Taser, fired at Smith in the hallway even as Smith turned the gun on him. His actions allowed Lamb to be dragged to safety. Smith then retreated to his bedroom.


Georgina Langford, of Leeston, will receive the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for her part in handling a violent home invasion at her mother's home near Nelson on  April 21, 2011.

Langford tried to wrestle a gun away from a relative who had shot his son. The award comes as she is dealing with the death on Friday of her brother, Michael Langford, in a Nelson logging accident.


With his foot jammed in the crumpled wreck of his truck and the cab filling with smoke, Bill Stirling told his rescuers to leave him. 

"But I'm glad they didn't because God must have decided otherwise. My foot came free and they got me out just as the thing blew," the 78-year-old Hastings kaumatua said, recalling the crash that nearly killed him on October 16, 2010.

Rather than leave him trapped, Dominion Post journalist Martin Kay and Haumoana flooring contractor Colin Wiggins helped free Stirling, dragging him to safety moments before flames engulfed the truck.

Stirling was thrilled to hear his rescuers were to get medals. "It was a dangerous situation they put themselves into. I can't say enough about them. They deserve the award. If they hadn't made that attempt I would have given up. I'd be ashes now," he said.

"They were very humble about it. They're quiet heroes."

Wiggins did not consider his actions brave.

"It's not about being brave, it's something you just do because you're there. You can't just walk away."

He had talked to Stirling, who had been a friend of his father's, about two weeks after the accident but since then had done his best to "move on" from it.

The Press