Police crime statistics released this week reveal a sharp rise in the number of home invasions - 112 last year compared with 85 in 2008. Of those, more than half remain unsolved. Reporter Elizabeth Binning went behind the numbers to talk to a family who experienced the horror of an attack in their own home.

Seventy-one-year-old Barbara believed she was about to watch her daughter die at the hands of masked men.

"They got a pillow and were both holding the pillow over her - she could hardly breathe," said Barbara, who asked to be identified only by her first name. "She was gasping and I thought, 'You've got another half a minute.' I said, 'Don't kill her'."

Barbara was at home with her 41-year-old daughter, Anne, when four masked men broke into their Mangatangi farmhouse late on March 17.

She woke about 11.50pm to find someone poking at her but, in the darkness, it was hard to see anything clearly.

"I went to jump up and I was grabbed - one guy on each side. I had three in my room. I looked up and saw them, all in black, and could just see their eyes," she said. "It was like a bad dream, it was unbelievable."

The men started saying, "Where's your money, where's the safe ..?"

"I said, 'There's no money here'."

The men then used tape to bind Barbara's wrists before marching her into her daughter's room.

There, she could only watch in horror as they threw Anne to the floor "like a rag doll" before holding their hands around her throat and putting a pillow over her face.

Anne said she had woken to noises in her room. Confused, she called out to her mother, thinking she was up.

"I saw these silhouettes of two people and then one just plunged at me and threw me across the room and into the wall. He lunged on top of me ... He was choking me, I was gasping for air and could hardly breathe," she said.

It was during this struggle that Anne said she suddenly thought of Beverly Bouma, who was murdered during a home invasion at her farmhouse at Reporoa, north of Taupo, in 1998.

"I thought we were goners."

Anne said that at one stage the man started to pull at her top but she managed to knee him in the groin. She was eventually tied up and left in the room with her mother, who by this stage was hog-tied. The terrified women could hear the men ransacking the house for about 45 minutes.

"Things were flying through the air," said Barbara. "Part of the bed landed on top of Anne."

The men even went as far as to cut into the bed base in their hunt for money. Before leaving the house they took a mobile phone, cut the phone lines and hid the landline in the back of a cupboard. The women stayed in the room until they heard the farm animals making a noise, indicating the men had fled through paddocks.

Barbara eventually managed to get out of her restraints and helped Anne.

They went to a neighbour, who rang the police.

The family say they are grateful to police, who have kept them up to date throughout the investigation and this week made four arrests.

Part of their reason for speaking to the Weekend Herald was to raise awareness that crime isn't just a city-based problem and farmers need to be vigilant about security as well.