Bond strengthens after axe attack

RECOVERING: A Bluff couple injured in an axe attack are grateful for community support they have received.
RECOVERING: A Bluff couple injured in an axe attack are grateful for community support they have received.

The couple severely injured in a horrific axe attack in Bluff 10 days ago are recovering in hospital in Dunedin and say despite the horror and pain they have suffered they will not let it change their lives.

The couple had been together for less than a week when they were attacked in their home.

The woman has skull fractures, brain damage and a broken arm, while her new partner has head injuries and lost part of his ear.

On the night of the attack the woman's four children were in bed and the couple were about to turn in themselves when the man went out into the conservatory to have a cigarette.

As he went to open the door, he said, an axe came out of nowhere and hit him straight across the face.

"It pretty much knocked me out. I staggered away and fell back, but I must have tried to close the door. He pushed through the door and I fell to the ground."

The woman had been following her partner into the conservatory and the axeman turned to attack her.

"I could see her getting attacked . . . he'd turned the axe round and he was bashing her around the head with it. I wanted to get there to help, but I couldn't."

The woman had been talking on a phone to a friend and when she saw the man burst in she screamed for help.

She said that even as she was being attacked her first thought was for her partner. She wanted to get him away from the man.

"I remember trying to get to him and I couldn't. I was yelling at the man to stop and he wouldn't . . . I wanted to save us and I couldn't. It was horrible."

She said that when the man had finished dealing to her he returned to attacking her partner.

"I remember him standing there and the look in his eyes was just dark. He was looking right through me.

"I thought I was dead."

They both said they remembered the attacker smiling and laughing as he hit them, a dead look in his eyes.

"He seemed to enjoy it," the woman said. Her partner had the same impression. "I can still see him smiling at me while he was hitting her around the head with an axe. He enjoyed it," the man said.

The couple believe they were saved by the male friend whom the woman had been talking to on the phone when the attack started.

He had rushed to their house as soon as he heard the woman screaming about the man with the axe and, although he couldn't get inside because the door had a chain on it, he made enough noise to scare off the attacker.

"We were so lucky I was on the phone, I think we would have died." She said it was fortunate her four children were asleep during the attack.

"They could have died too."

The children did not know what happened, except that the couple got hurt. They were shielded from the scene of the attack and taken out of the house by the friend and police.

The couple said there was blood everywhere as they were taken to hospital in Invercargill. There, the woman was told she had a severe skull injury.

Shards of bone had pressed down into her brain, causing brain damage. She had to be flown to Dunedin that morning.

She said it was hard to say goodbye to her partner. He had wanted to go with her, but the doctors said he was too big to fit into the helicopter. So he was left behind.

The woman spent six hours having her skull and arm reconstructed. She has had a titanium plate put into her skull, and pins into her arm.

Her partner hasn't left her side since he arrived in Dunedin two days later, having recovered from his concussion.

Victim Support paid for him to go up to Dunedin and sorted out a motel for him to stay at.

At first she couldn't feed, dress or wash herself, but she has regained a lot of function now.

She said it was hard to see herself the first time when the bandages came off. Half her head has been shaved and there are staples keeping the skin together over the wounds.

"I remember saying I didn't want to go to Dunedin because I didn't want to be bald," she said. "I like my man's [shaven] haircut and all, but I don't want to imitate him."

A year's rehabilitation lies in front of her. But she said the doctors had told her she should make a good recovery.

The people of Bluff have helped enormously. The kindergarten has a roster of parents cooking meals for the children and one of the pubs gave the woman's friend, who is looking after them, money for groceries.

"I'm just so proud to be part of Bluff, and to raise my children around such great people."

Their employers have also stepped up, giving them as much time as they need to recover.

The pair said the bond between them had been strengthened by what happened.

"It's going to be a moment we're not going to forget," the man said. "It will build a foundation for our future."

"We're not looking at the bad stuff," the woman said. "We're looking at the good. How much we want to be together . . . it's made us realise how good love can be. If you can get through this, you can get through anything."

A man has been arrested and charged with causing grievous bodily harm. He was given name suppression.

The Southland Times