Victim tells of Christchurch stabbing horror
It is a scene that will be etched in Michael Thomson's memory forever.
Standing at a Christchurch intersection in peak-hour traffic, bleeding from 11 stab wounds, the 55-year-old council worker could only watch as his attacker continued his rampage across the street.
Zakariye Mohammed Hussein, 27, had tried to hijack Thomson's car. When Thomson intentionally crashed it instead, Hussein went on a stabbing frenzy.
Bleeding from the chest, arms and face on a Hoon Hay footpath, Thomson said, thoughts began creeping in that that Thursday morning could be his last.
Hussein was last week jailed for six years and six months for his actions on March 15, a day the Somali refugee was off his medication and felt "possessed by the Devil".
Speaking publicly for the first time since his horrific ordeal, Thomson, who became known simply as the "council worker", said he vividly remembered the events of that morning.
He did not attend Hussein's sentencing. He never wants to see the man again.
Instead, the upbeat senior traffic engineer wants to focus on the everyday people who did the extraordinary; in particular, a woman whose actions saved his life.
The day started out much like any other. Thomson had taken a work car home for the night to go directly to a road-safety meeting in Ilam the next day.
Normally he drove through Riccarton, but on reaching Barrington St he decided to detour down Hoon Hay Rd and avoid traffic.
Across town, Hussein's rampage had begun.
At Redwood School, where Hussein had camped overnight in a bush, he threatened caretaker Noel Batstone, smashing classroom windows where Batstone barricaded himself in.
He then kidnapped Marteine Robin, 36, who was delivering pies to the school. Hussein jumped into her van and forced her to drive at knifepoint towards Halswell before stabbing her in the shoulder.
When they stopped at lights in Hoon Hay, Hussein got out and started walking down the queue of cars, stopping at Thomson's passenger door.
Thomson was "vaguely aware" of a commotion going on behind him and could hear doors slamming.
When Hussein got into the car, Thomson's first reaction was disbelief, but he quickly realised the man was "pretty serious".
Hussein held the knife to him and said one word: "Drive".
Thomson said a lot of things went through his mind at that moment.
He was concerned about going into a 100kmh area in case he was stabbed and caused a high-speed head-on collision. He also did not want to drive anywhere remote where he could be attacked.
"I made the instant decision to stop it there and then."
He put his foot down on the accelerator and drove into a nearby brick wall, hoping the airbags would allow the chance to escape.
But the airbags did not discharge, and Hussein flew into a rage.
Hussein began stabbing Thomson repeatedly while he tried to defend himself.
Thomson managed to get out of the car, but Hussein followed.
Thomson said the stabs felt more like punches, and he did not feel much pain.
Watching the commotion several cars back was administrator Sophie Kamariera, 34.
She, too, thought it was road rage, then realised what looked like a punch-up was in fact a brutal stabbing.
She screamed at Hussein to put down the knife, and he let Thomson walk towards her.
Thomson said that moment was among the most vivid.
"One of my last memories was standing on Hoon Hay Rd with blood pouring out of me and he was on the other side," he said. "I thought, this is bad. It's a pretty horrible image for me."
Kamariera said her first thought was to get Thomson away from Hussein.
She drove up next to Thomson and yelled at him to get into her car, despite his protests that his blood would ruin it.
"He was bloodied and completely unrecognisable and on death's door, and he said: ‘I'll mess up the car'," she said.
She drove him 30 metres around the corner into Lincoln Rd while phoning an ambulance.
Pulling over, she got clothes from her car and pressed them to his chest while screaming for help.
"I thought he was dying or already dead," Kamariera said.
An off-duty paramedic was walking past and, along with a passing cyclist, helped to stem the blood flow while police cordoned off the area.
Thomson said things got "very vague" from then on.
He never saw bystander Jade Lynn, 22, confront Hussein and keep him at arm's length with an iron bar, or police try to stop Hussein with pepper spray and a Taser before shooting him in the arm. Thomson managed to give an ambulance worker his partner's phone number before losing consciousness. His next memory was waking up in intensive care.
Now just over six months into his recovery, Thomson said the pain in the first few weeks at home was "horrible".A keen runner, he had just completed a half-marathon before the attack, but two punctured lungs meant he had done little running since.
He has undergone major surgeries, has pins and needles in one small finger because of nerve damage, severe scarring on his chest and requires dental work where he lost a tooth.
"It's the last thing you'd think would happen to you on the way to work," he said.
"I'll say I've made a full recovery when I'm back to running as I normally did."
He said he was now more conscious of keeping the doors at home locked.
"This has brought out the worst in one person, but it has brought out the very best in everyone around me," he said.
"It's a horrible thing that happened, but Christchurch is still a great place. You think, ‘Why me?' But it had to be somebody. I was just in the wrong place, wrong time.
"Marteine had to deal with him for an hour. For me, it was physically traumatic, but it was all over pretty quick."
Thomson is convinced he owes his life to Kamariera.
Without her actions and the help of those passing by, he said, he would have died from blood loss.
"It was a very brave thing for a woman, or any person, on their own to do."
Kamariera said the incident was both awful and "surreal", but she felt anything but heroic.
"I knew it was a life-or-death situation and I had to do something about it. I'd hope other people would do that in that situation," she said.
Kamariera went to Hussein's sentencing last week. She felt sad for everyone affected.
"What I saw in the stand wasn't the man I saw on the day," she said. "Mike was just this nice guy going to work . . . He [Hussein] will have to live with this for the rest of his life."
Thomson said Hussein's jail term "felt short".
"He may be fine while he is on medication, but I'm concerned . . . for some other poor innocent person," he said.
"If he's a model prisoner and gets back out into society in a relatively short period of time . . . could he go out of control again? Is there a risk? That's what concerns me. I'm extremely fortunate to have survived it. Someone else may not be."
Hussein will be eligible for parole after serving half his sentence.
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