Real Life

Real life: My dreadlocks saved my life

I’d just ducked out for a carton of milk when my world turned to horror.

By Brittany Smith

Sharon Hacker, 44 from Enmore, NSW, shares her true life story:

My thick dreadlocks swung past my waist as I walked into the 7-Eleven to grab a carton of milk.

It was 2am but I was too busy to sleep.

My daughter, Gabrielle, 19, and I were flying to the Gold Coast that afternoon and I'd left packing to the last minute.

I needed coffee to get me through, so I'd quickly ducked up the road for milk.

Twisting my dreadlocks into a thick knot behind my head, I went to the fridge, then walked past two customers to pay.

I was just heading out the sliding doors when something thudded behind me.

Thwack!

The room spun as darkness enveloped me.

A high-pitch was ringing in my ears as I blinked my eyes open.

I was on the concrete outside the store.

How did I get here?

Suddenly a woman stepped over me, a bloodied axe swinging from her hand.

I shook in terror as I watched her calmly wander down the road.

Glancing inside, I saw another costumer with blood gushing from his head.

"I can't feel my body," I gasped.

I stumbled up on my trembling hands and knees, but couldn't feel the sensations.

It was like I was floating.My legs were too weak and I collapsed on the floor.

Evie entered the store, walked around and then struck myself and Ben in the head. *(Images exclusive to Take 5)*
Evie entered the store, walked around and then struck myself and Ben in the head. (Images exclusive to Take 5)

With the attacker still out there, I had to focus but my head was pounding.

"Have you called triple-0?" I asked the shocked cashier and he quickly grabbed the phone.

My fingers shook as I found my mobile to ring my partner, Darren.

I knew he was tucked up in bed, sleeping soundly.

It took dozens of calls before he finally answered.

"I've been attacked," I blurted.

It still didn't feel real.

I didn't even know what had actually happened.

Darren got there just as the paramedics arrived.

They confirmed our attacker had been arrested further down the street.

We were all so dazed, they had to rely on security footage to find out exactly what had happened.When the paramedic looked up at me from the screen, his eyes were wide.

"You shouldn't have a head right now," he gasped. "Your dreadlocks saved your life!"

My mouth dropped open as Darren hugged me tightly.

The axe had struck me in the back of my neck but thanks to my dreads, the blade hadn't been able to penetrate my flesh.

After growing my hair like this for 24 years, it would've been like trying to cut through thick rope.

At hospital, an MRI revealed I had a fractured skull.

For the first time the horror finally hit me.

I'd been growing out my hair for 24 years. *(Images exclusive to Take 5)*
I'd been growing out my hair for 24 years. (Images exclusive to Take 5)

Then, my thoughts turned to my daughter and how she'd be affected by all this.

Gabby had autism and struggled to cope with unexpected situations.

If she knew I'd been attacked with an axe, she'd fall apart.

There was no way I could tell her.

"The fracture will heal itself," the doc explained. "But you'll need to wear a neck brace for two and a half months."

I was shaken but knew it could have much worse.

The other customer, Ben, had been hit square in the face and had a fractured nasal bone, eye socket and cheekbone.

In comparison, I'd been incredibly lucky.

As the hours passed, sensation slowly came back in my limbs and I regained movement.

I glanced at the clock. Our flight wasn't for a few hours yet.

"Can I leave?" I asked the doctor.

I expected him to put up a fight but he admitted I'd be fine as long as I kept the brace on.

When I got home and Gabby saw me, her eyes widened in shock.

She was starting to panic.

"I've just had a little fall," I soothed.

I felt terrible lying to her but I couldn't bear the thought of her living in fear because of what happened to me.

Amazingly, we still managed to make our flight.

We'd only been in the Gold Coast a day when someone came up behind me and tapped me on the back.

I never thought my dreads would save my life. *(Images exclusive to Take 5)*
I never thought my dreads would save my life. (Images exclusive to Take 5)

I nearly jumped a mile.

"I'm sorry," a man stammered. "You're the lady from the news. You survived the axe attack!"

Gabby screamed before I could get a word in.

I explained the situation to the man and he apologised before hurrying off. But the damage had been done.

Gabby started trembling and pacing the footpath.

"Mum was hit with an axe," she muttered constantly under her breath.

I pulled her in tightly to my chest.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," I whispered, desperately trying to calm her. "I'll be okay."

She wasn't angry but it was heartbreaking to see how it affected her.

She shook for hours afterwards.

Back home, Gabby was still too scared to go outside at night.

And if I was ever late back from work, she'd call me, terrified something had happened.

When the attacker, Evie Amati went to trial, accused of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to murder, I sat in the courtroom.

Surprisingly, listening to her defence gave me comfort.

Evie was just a young, angry woman who'd wanted to hurt the world.

If she'd just sought support, instead of lashing out, this never would've happened.

Evie Amati. *(Images exclusive to Take 5)*
Evie Amati. (Images exclusive to Take 5)

One morning I was in the courthouse lift when Evie and her lawyer stepped inside. As soon as Evie saw me, she looked terrified. Tears welled in her eyes.

Not sure what else to do, I reached out and hugged her. She was shocked.

"I'm sorry," she murmured. "The attack shouldn't have happened."

I nodded.

"It shouldn't have but I'm glad it was me because I don't know anyone else could've taken it," I admitted.

Eight months after the attack, Evie Amati was found guilty of two counts of wounding with intent to murder and one count of attempted wounding with intent to murder.

She cried when the verdict was read out.

It filled me with relief but I don't hate her and I won't let what happened make me angry.

I'm going to stay strong for my family and be the loving, outgoing person I've always been.

The greatest victory is being happy and that's exactly what I'm doing.

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