Beaten chaplain returns to work

BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 10/07/2014
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ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Taranaki Base Hospital chaplain Murray Elliot returned to work this week three weeks after he was attacked in the chapel office.

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Hospital chaplain Murray Elliot says his physical wounds have healed but the emotional scars will take longer.

Three weeks ago Elliot was attacked when a man entered the Taranaki Base Hospital chapel demanding money.

The 68-year-old said he thought very little about God or the threat to his life during the ordeal but rather focused on remembering as many details as possible.

"I wasn't really thinking about my faith at the time."

As the man continued to demand money he grabbed Elliot, taking out a box cutter and slashing at his face.

"He had me in a headlock so I could see him about to swipe and was able to duck. Then I got an arm free and was able to protect my face so he slashed my arm."

When the box cutter was put away Elliot began to relax, but by that time the man had both his arms trapped.

"Then I saw him take what looked like the end of a broom handle from his pocket and he started beating me," Elliot said.

It was at that point that Elliot said, "You don't want to steal God's money", which "freaked" the man out.

"I could feel him freeze behind me," he said.

"After that he swore at me, took another swipe at my face and ran out the door."

Soon after an orderly was wheeling Elliot to the emergency room.

"I was talking with the cleaner at 8.40am and by 8.50am I was in ED."

The attacker, who has a distinctive sunray tattoo near his left eye, has not been seen since and is still being hunted by police.

Elliot said that while he wanted to see justice served he believed the man needed help for whatever was motivating him.

"It's in a chaplain's heart to want to help."

Elliot said the attack had affected a large number of people including hospital staff, patients and his family. "The impact on my wife and kids and grandchildren is huge," he said.

Before returning to work Elliot said he visited his office to "see what it would feel like".

"I asked my wife to come in and we went through it," he said.

After three days at work it was beginning to get easier but there were still feelings that arose in certain situations, he said.

"I look around corners a bit more now but hopefully that will go in time. The physical stuff has healed but the other stuff is unknown. Like the other day someone came up behind me and it really freaked me out."

Elliot said he wished to thank everyone for the enormous amount of support he had received from people throughout the community.

But perhaps a plaque that sits on his desk and is inscribed with the words "stand firm" is just the encouragement he needs.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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