When a girl was being viciously sexually assaulted inside a dance studio, a dad nearby made a split-second decision. WARNING: Graphic

WARNING: Graphic

It was a snap decision that anyone could have missed, leaving a seven-year-old dancing student in the clutches of a depraved rapist.

The split-second judgment call would put Sydney father Nick Gilio at risk of death as Anthony Sampieri lashed out and slashed him.

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But Gilio's immediate grasp of the situation saved the little girl lying bound behind the toilet door.

It happened about 7.45pm on November 15, 2018, in an unlit men's toilet at the St George Dance Hall, one floor above the Derby St shops in the southern Sydney suburb of Kogarah.

Gilio, a diesel mechanic, was at the dance studio as his daughters were attending Thursday night classes.

A mother was looking for her missing seven-year-old daughter who had vanished after answering an urgent call of nature about 55 minutes earlier.

The mother and a dentist from the building, Jeffrey Stack, had entered the male toilet searching for the girl, but had only received a muffled reply from a man behind a closed cubicle door.

As Stack returned to his dental surgery, Gilio offered to help the mother search.

A man emerged from the toilet and walked past the mother and Gilio in the corridor.

When Gilio asked the man, Anthony Peter Sampieri, if he had seen a little girl, he said "no".

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Little did the mother and Gilio know that the terrified little girl was just metres away, under threat that if she made a sound, Sampieri would "cut her neck off".

When Gilio and the mother re-entered the male toilet, Sampieri followed them.

In a cubicle inside, Gilio and the mother saw the little girl bound and gagged on top of the toilet.

When Mr Gilio and the mother found the girl inside the toilet he immediately realised the man with them was the attacker. Photo / 9 News
When Mr Gilio and the mother found the girl inside the toilet he immediately realised the man with them was the attacker. Photo / 9 News

A cord was tied around her neck and her ankles and wrists were restrained with black cord.

When the girl saw them, she burst into tears.

Immediately Sampieri began to make his way to the exit door from the male toilet.

Instantly intuiting it was the stranger who had done this, Gilio ran towards Sampieri, grabbed his head and rammed it into the toilet wall.

"Is this what you do?" Gilio said to him, "is this what you f***ing do?"

Again, Sampieri tried to leave, but Gilio grabbed him around the throat.

It was a brave move.

Although the 25kg, 130cm tall seven-year-old girl was no match for the rapist, he was taller than Gilio.

Despite a methamphetamine addiction, the fact he was high on $200 of ice and a chronic hepatitis C positive diagnosis, 55-year-old Sampieri was physically solid.

The victim's mother began screaming and Stack ran from his dental surgery up the corridor.

The door to the toilet was closed on Gilio, the mother, the little girl and Sampieri.

When he couldn't kick it open, he ran outside, yelling for someone to call police.

At 7.51pm, dance teacher Fiona Gage dialled triple-0.

When Nick Gilio walked back into the dance studio covered in blood, one of the scared little girls who saw him was his daughter. Photo / 7 News
When Nick Gilio walked back into the dance studio covered in blood, one of the scared little girls who saw him was his daughter. Photo / 7 News

Inside the male toilet, Sampieri produced a black-handled knife.

It was the same weapon he had used to subdue the little girl an hour earlier, saying as he tied her up, dragging her from the women's toilets to the men's.

"This is my knife and I don't want to use it," he told her.

Then he sexually assaulted her, while filming himself.

With the scalpel-style knife in his hand, Sampieri lunged at Gilio, slashing his stomach.

Sampieri brandished the knife at Gilio, the mother and her daughter, indicating they couldn't leave the toilets.

The mother tried to leave, carrying her daughter – still bound and tied – to the door, but Sampieri swung the knife, cutting the mother's hand.

Gilio wrapped one arm around Sampieri's head and used his other arm to hold down the wrist of the hand in which the rapist held the knife.

Using pure body force, Gilio spun Sampieri down to the floor, where they landed on their hands and knees.

Sampieri's left shoulder was pressed into Gilio's right shoulder, the offender having a slight advantage with his head raised higher.

Sampieri managed to cut Gilio's wrist with the knife, then lifting his right arm across the back of Gilio's neck, he struck again.

Dragging the knife across the back of Gilio's neck, he slashed a 14cm wound.

Gilio screamed in pain, but remained still as he feared if he moved the knife might cut into vital nerves, tendons or muscles.

With the terrified mother and daughter watching on, Sampieri snapped off the knife blade, which fell to the floor

Sampieri, a drug addict who is hep C positive, tried to bite Mr Gilio's arm, but fortunately failed. Photo / Supplied
Sampieri, a drug addict who is hep C positive, tried to bite Mr Gilio's arm, but fortunately failed. Photo / Supplied

In the struggle that ensued with Gilio, Sampieri lost his shorts and underpants.

Still on his knees, Gilio grabbed Sampieri in a headlock and tried to move him to the toilet door.

As Gilio repeatedly screamed "Open the door", Sampieri tried to bite him on the forearm.

This time, Stack managed to open the door and he punched Sampieri twice in the face with a closed fist.

Sampieri went limp and dropped to the ground.

Bleeding from the neck and abdomen, Gilio ran from the toilet, yelling for someone to call the police.

The mother carried her daughter into the corridor, loosened the binding around her neck and tried to soothe her.

Inside the dance studio, young girl students including his daughter became upset when they saw a bleeding Gilio.

He walked back up to the male toilet, kicked Sampieri once in the head, and then went outside where locals tried to administer temporary first aid.

At 7.56pm, police arrived, and shortly afterwards paramedics turned up at the scene.

Police found Sampieri lying in a pool of blood across the entry to the male toilet, his eyes almost swollen closed.

Anthony Sampieri admitted after his arrest he'd been high on meth when the incident took place. Photo / News Corp Australia
Anthony Sampieri admitted after his arrest he'd been high on meth when the incident took place. Photo / News Corp Australia

He was breathing, but didn't respond.

After being carried to an ambulance, Sampieri told officers the lie: "I was in the bathroom shooting up meth with another male. He attacked me and stole my meth."

Inside the toilets, police found Sampieri's broken knife and the black bag in which he had carried it and the cords to tie up the little girl.

Police removed the cord from her ankles and her mother sat with her in an ambulance to Randwick Children's Hospital.

Doctors found she had pinpoint haemorrhages beneath one eyelid, which are a telltale sign of asphyxia.

She had a bruised cheek, abrasions and lesions in her mouth, bruises and abrasions on her neck, torso, limbs, back, and bruises on her chest.

At 1am on November 16, she was discharged home into the care of her parents.

Gilio was taken to St George Hospital where he received 12 stitches to his neck, six stitches to his stomach wound and treatment for his wrist wound and body abrasions.

At the same hospital, Sampieri was treated for eye and sinus fractures, superficial lacerations and abrasions.

A small intercranial haematoma did not require treatment and a cauliflower ear was deemed possibly an existing condition.

A split-second decision by hero father Nick Gilio endangered his life, but saved a seven-year-old girl. Photo / news.com.au
A split-second decision by hero father Nick Gilio endangered his life, but saved a seven-year-old girl. Photo / news.com.au

He was transferred to Prince of Wales Hospital's locked corrections ward.

In a police interview, Sampieri admitted he had taken methamphetamine an hour before the attack.

He did so regularly to enhance his sexual fantasies.

He bought the drugs near the Kogarah Hotel, 350 metres from the flat he had been living in with his mother since his release from prison on parole after serving just five years.

Sampieri had raped a 60-year-old woman in 2012 in the midst of a "sex binge", blitzing women whose numbers he had found in newspaper articles with obscene phone calls.

What police didn't know was that in the months before the attack on the little girl, Sampieri had made 94 harassing, menacing or offensive calls to women.

He admitted to watching pornography on his phone in the toilet before attacking the seven-year-old girl.

A blood test would reveal he had taken amphetamines, methamphetamines, Valium and Nordiazepam, used to treat anxiety.

Upon a search of his mother's one-bedroom flat, where Sampieri slept in the living room, police found pornographic videos.

He admitted when the young girl entered the female toilet at the dance studio, he "was so high … sexually charged".

He agreed he had punched the girl in the cheek in anger when she refused to comply with a demand.

At a sentencing hearing for Sampieri this week, the child rapist kept his head bowed for most of the time he was in the dock.

He did not meet the eyes of Nick Gilio when the hero father glared at Sampieri as he gave a harrowing account of what had happened to him during and since the incident.

Acting District Court Judge Paul Conlon praised the father for his bravery in rescuing the little girl.

Gilio said he had flashbacks of the moments he was stabbed.

"The terror and feeling of a scalpel being dragged across the back of my neck with no thought for who I am … or my family," an emotional Gilio told a hushed court.

"The flashbacks will … never stop," he said.

"I was a happy-go-lucky man.

"I was active, I enjoyed exercising and socialising.

"I feel as though a huge part of me has died on the night of that incident," he said.

"I see all children as vulnerable.

"I feel as if I am responsible for protecting all children all the time.

"I feel frightened for them."

Sampieri, a drug addict who is hep C positive, tried to bite Mr Gilio's arm, but fortunately failed. Photo / Supplied
Sampieri, a drug addict who is hep C positive, tried to bite Mr Gilio's arm, but fortunately failed. Photo / Supplied

Sampieri said despite his pain, people should think about "the little girl suffering a little bit more than all of us".

He wished Sampieri the harshest punishment available, life in prison.

"I hope his incarceration is filled with pain, darkness and misery," Gilio told the court.

"You must suffer."
Sampieri will appear before Judge Conlon for sentencing on December 9.