Edward Rooney

Edward Rooney is the news editor at the Herald on Sunday.

'Step up' plea from hero's family

Brothers of man killed saving woman in alley urge Kiwis to help stop attacks

The Hemmings family says onlookers must 'stand up'. Photo / File
The Hemmings family says onlookers must 'stand up'. Photo / File

The family of an Auckland man killed as he intervened in an attack five years ago have called on New Zealanders to live up to his legacy.

The bashing of a woman in the street last week in front of up to a dozen onlookers brought memories flooding back for the brothers of Austin Hemmings, who was killed when he intervened as a man was threatening a woman.

Last week, the Herald on Sunday reported that Praveet Singh, 40, was repeatedly beaten on a South Auckland street while her screams for help were ignored.

A 26-year-old man has been charged with assault.

In September 2008, Hemmings, a Devonport father of three, stepped into a confrontation between a man and a woman in a downtown Auckland alleyway. Pauesi Brown, who'd previously killed a woman in Australia, stabbed Hemmings in the chest as the woman escaped.

Craig Hemmings, 55, said incidents such as the attack on Singh brought thoughts of his brother back. "I want everyone to remember Austin was a hero.

He gave his life for a woman he didn't know."

Craig and his brother Grant said Austin's actions were a natural extension of his nature.

"Austin had strong values from his upbringing," Craig said. "He very much believed in treating people the way he'd want to be treated himself. He'd help absolutely anyone who needed it."

Craig still had faith in most people to do the right thing if a woman was being attacked. "New Zealand is the kind of place where people wouldn't stand back. We're not superbrave people but we do care about others."

Austin would have been 50 last year and that birthday was another of many tough days. "Christmas Day is always hard, as is any family celebration. There's little things every day that remind me."

Grant, 54, said Austin's example was simple: "You have to stand up."

He wondered whether there was a "bravery gene" but it was more likely that values instilled by parents in their children were the answer.

"When faced with a need to help someone, a lot of people will find it difficult to get physically involved - but at least try to do something. Phone the police, call out, run for help, but do something. Do what you are capable of, but at least try."

Austin's father, Dick Hemmings, 84, welcomed the chance to remind people of his son and doing the right thing. "I think the fact of keeping this in the public eye will encourage people to step up to the occasion."


Victim forgives bash onlookers

Ten days after she was attacked, Praveet Singh is still clutching an icepack against her face. The swelling and bruises are slowly healing, but the unseen injury is Singh feels she can't go outside.

"I'll have to be careful about who's walking beside me or coming behind me. We can't live like that."

However, she has forgiven those who failed to come to her aid in the South Auckland attack.

"I think it's better to forgive and move forward. It's not good for me and it's not good for them.

"I do hope these people realise what they did to me, and that they might react a bit directly if something like this ever happened again."

Singh said her workplace had been sympathetic, but there had been critics.

"One woman messaged me on Facebook to say that I must have had an intimate relationship with my attacker.

"People can think whatever they want to think, but those people are missing the issue.

"Even if I was with the man who attacked me, that doesn't warrant an attack. Even if I was in a relationship and it was a personal problem, it's not okay.

"I want everyone to notice what has happened because there is very little awareness about this issue. Obviously my neighbours don't know how to react in these situations.

"It was one person against 15 people.

"They could have pinned him, yelled at him or scared him."

- Herald on Sunday

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