Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Sword attacker foiled by a plucky gran

Frail but courageous pensioner among recipients of NZ Bravery Awards.

Christchurch great-grandmother Lois Kennedy, now 84, launched herself at her terrified neighbour's attacker with a hearth brush. Photo / Martin Hunter
Christchurch great-grandmother Lois Kennedy, now 84, launched herself at her terrified neighbour's attacker with a hearth brush. Photo / Martin Hunter

When 81-year-old Lois Kennedy woke to desperate cries for help from her neighbour, she leapt out of bed and ran.

"Yes, I ran," recalled the tiny great-grandmother.

"I couldn't usually run, I use a walking frame. But I grabbed my hearth brush from the front door and actually ran to help."

Mrs Kennedy is one of the recipients of a bravery medal (NZBM) in the New Zealand Bravery Awards.

The winners of this year's awards, which recognise the actions of people who put themselves at risk while trying to save the lives of others, are announced today.

In the dim early morning light, and with impaired vision, Mrs Kennedy could just make out her neighbour being bashed near her Christchurch home.

She waded straight in, raining down repeated blows on the attacker, who was the victim's son and 40 years her junior.

Even when the victim whispered, "He's got a knife" - in fact a samurai sword - Mrs Kennedy was unperturbed.

"I just did whatever a good neighbour would've done," the quiet-spoken mother-of-five said, looking back on the January 21, 2011 drama.

"I felt the sword in the dark. It was very sharp. But it never occurred to me not to help."

The man lashed out, kicking back, as he continued to pin down his 61-year-old mum on the concrete.

Mrs Kennedy yelled for help from fellow residents at St Johns Court in Woolston. But no one came to their assistance, and the man kept up his determined assault.

Mrs Kennedy went back inside her flat and phoned police.

"The police girl told me to stay on the line, and that was a hard thing to do," she said.

"There was blood everywhere."

Police arrested the man who was trying to flee in his mother's car.

The woman was hospitalised for weeks and left "traumatised", Mrs Kennedy said.

Heroics run in the family of Mrs Kennedy, now 84 and living at Parkwood Rest Home and Hospital.

Firefighter son Royd Kennedy rescued 12-year-old Shirley Young who was trapped under a burning oil tanker for an hour in Manukau in 1990. He was awarded the George Cross, which up until 1999 was the highest gallantry award for civilians.

But Mrs Kennedy doesn't see herself being in the same category, saying her award has left her embarrassed. "It wasn't anything much."

Her daughter Sandra Kennedy, 56, isn't quite so convinced. And neither were police at the time. "Police said that without mum's intervention they could've been dealing with a murder," she said.

The bravery awards will be presented by the Governor-General at a ceremony at Government House in Wellington or Auckland.

Honours for heroic Kiwis

Seventeen New Zealanders have been recognised this year with New Zealand Bravery Awards for putting themselves at risk while trying to save others.

Georgina Langford (NZBD), Jan Boyd and John Boyd (NZBM)
The family confronted a shotgun-wielding relative who shot his son in the chest at their rural home near Nelson in April 2011. Mrs Boyd, a nurse, pushed the man and his shotgun before giving first aid to his son. Her 21-year-old daughter, Ms Langford, grabbed the gun and tried to wrestle it away. Her bedridden stepfather, Mr Boyd, who has multiple sclerosis, called emergency services and kept them on the line.

Mark Allen and Kenneth Reilly (NZBM)
The Amberley men rescued an unconscious woman trapped in a burning car after a head-on crash on SH1 in North Canterbury in May 2011. The men doused her clothes with a fire extinguisher and climbed into the car, inhaling thick smoke as they freed her trapped leg and pulled her to safety, moments before the car was engulfed in flames.

Detective Gregory Cater, Constable James Collins, Detective Constable Edward Luxford, Constable Johan Mulder, Constable Liam Pham, Sergeant Chris Turnbull and Constable Andrew Warne (NZBM)
Seven officers came to the aid of a constable who was shot four times and left bleeding on a Papatoetoe driveway in December 2009. The officers did not wait for the armed offenders squad, rescuing the constable on foot.

Jade Lynn (NZBM)
Christchurch construction worker Mr Lynn confronted a man standing in a road, waving two large knives at members of the public in March 2012. The man had kidnapped and stabbed two people, and was trying to stab a cyclist and get into cars. Mr Lynn tried to reason with him and then armed himself with a steel bar. The man came forward, forcing Mr Lynn to push back with the bar. He distracted the man until police arrived.

*NZBD = New Zealand Bravery Decoration, awarded for acts of exceptional bravery in a situation of danger
*NZBM = New Zealand Bravery Medal, awarded for acts of bravery

- APNZ

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