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Mother recalls attack 'terror'

Michael Chilcott awaits sentence for attacking a young woman in her Dunedin flat last November.  Photo / Otago Daily Times
Michael Chilcott awaits sentence for attacking a young woman in her Dunedin flat last November. Photo / Otago Daily Times

A young Dunedin mother who was stabbed and almost killed in her home believes judo lessons she attended with her father saved her life.

The 26-year-old nurse struggled throughout the attack by 21-year-old Michael John Chilcott, who came to the door of her Duncan St flat asking for a drink of water just before 9am on November 19.

He hit her from behind with his coffee mug, punched her, pushed her into her bedroom and told her to be quiet or he would hurt her young daughter, then pulled off her pyjama trousers and indecently assaulted her.

He pulled out a pair of scissors and stabbed her about the face and neck then tried to choke her and smother her with a pillow.

In a five-page victim impact statement she read at the sentencing hearing in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, the woman spoke of the devastation the attack had caused to her family and to her partner.

She and her father were very close. He was upset, angry and struggling to deal with the situation.

He used to take her to judo lessons and ''we credit [that] for saving my life'', she said.

Chilcott was yesterday sentenced to nine years and nine months' jail on charges of wounding, indecent assault and aggravated burglary. Judge John Macdonald set a non-parole period of five years.

The Crown had advocated a prison sentence starting at 12 to 12 and a-half years, with credit for the guilty plea, while Campbell Savage, for Chilcott, suggested a sentence starting at about 11 years.

Judge Macdonald said it appeared the motive for the attack had been sexual, although Chilcott denied that, claiming he went to the flat to get money for drugs.

The victim's injuries were ''truly serious'' and the emotional impact ''terrifying'', the woman's overwhelming terror being for her young daughter.

''Her whole family has been devastated by what you did,'' the judge told Chilcott.

While violence did not feature strongly in his previous convictions, it appeared his liking for K2 had caused problems. He was on medication for depression, was under monitoring and assessed at high risk of reoffending.

A psychiatric report told of his first use of drugs and the judge acknowledged the drowning of a friend in 2008 had been a life-changing event for Chilcott and perhaps started his downward spiral.

There were no mitigating features to the offending, the judge said, but eight aggravating factors - extreme violence, premeditation, serious and potentially fatal injuries, use of weapons, targeting the victim's head, attempting to commit another crime, the victim's vulnerability and the home invasion element.

At times during her victim impact statement, the young woman addressed Chilcott directly. He stood in the dock, his head bowed.

Although she did not know him, she was happy to be a good Samaritan when he came to her door asking for a glass of water, she said.

If she had a choice, she would never think of the assault again, but was learning it would never truly leave her.

''When I think back to what happened, I remember a feeling of overwhelming terror - terror for me and terror for my daughter.''

At the time, she believed her 3-year-old daughter would be harmed or murdered and that was a feeling that would always haunt her.

Her little girl had been exposed to ''a hideous level of violence'' and would not come to see her for the first four days in hospital.

''She was scared and uncertain I was the same person. I had seen myself in the mirror. I was unrecognisable,'' she said. She spent her first night in hospital after the attack in the high dependency unit because of high-risk breathing issues.

The largest wound was 5cm wide and 5cm deep to the front of her neck. There were three stab wounds to the front of her neck, a 4cm-deep wound to her face and three behind her ear. She was unable to drive for six weeks because of head injuries and concussion, had countless headaches for some time and still had frequent migraines.

She was now a patient of the concussion clinic through the ISIS Centre. Her neck injuries had affected her shoulder and her back, requiring ongoing physiotherapy.

She was physically and emotionally unable to return to full-time work and had to live off her savings.

"The entire situation has been catastrophic for my life and those around me," the young woman said. She still had flashbacks about the assault, had immense difficulty sleeping and nightmares most nights.

Every day following the assault had been "an absolute battle" for her. She had difficulty with her ACC claims, difficulty finding a counsellor, financial and emotional stress, physical pain and relationship strain.

"I feel angry sometimes about my situation but, towards the offender, I feel only pity."

All she could hope for was to one day feel normal again.

FAMILY THANKS 'HERO' FOR HELPING

The "bravery, determination, cunning and ferociousness" of a young Dunedin woman in defending herself and her child against a violent and unprovoked attack has made her a hero in the eyes of her family.

Yesterday, the woman stood before her assailant as he was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court.

Shortly afterwards, her family released a public statement thanking those involved in her recovery and praising her courage.

"We are relieved today that this individual has been removed from society, and doing harm to anybody else. It has been an ordeal that we wish upon no other family."

On behalf of the victim and her loved ones, they thanked Dunedin police, hospital staff and the woman who "rescued" her outside the address where the attack occurred.

"We have appreciated their professionalism, effectiveness, informative approach and their can-do attitude.

"We extend our eternal gratitude to her rescuer who unreservedly accepted her pleas for help, stopped, and took her to the hospital in her car - she is a hero."

They said the victim was a "carer" who was often humble in receiving care herself, but was made comfortable at all times by hospital staff who "did whatever they could".

The family received "many" unanticipated offers of help from the wider Dunedin community as well as friends and extended family.

While grateful for the "respect and professionalism" of the media, they said the victim was not yet ready to tell her story publicly.

"It is still too soon. She, like the rest of her family, is a private person who normally shuns from the public spotlight.

"However, the family would like to publicly recognise the bravery, determination, cunning and ferociousness of her in defending herself and her child.

"She is a credit to us all - our hero."

- Otago Daily Times

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