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

Sword attacker foiled by a plucky gran

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.

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.


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