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Real Life

'How I escaped the babysitter bomber'

For the past two years, Melissa Birkin has remained a silent hero. In December 2004 the petite babysitter foiled a crazed bomber's plot to take hostages and blow up a luxury apartment block on the Gold Coast, but her actions went unnoticed until last week, when a stunned court heard of her terrifying encounter with Jonathon Richwood. Despite being battered almost senseless, Melissa, 26, mustered all her strength to escape her brutal attacker and raise the alarm. Opening her heart to Woman's Day, Melissa, who's just 155cm tall and weighs 50kg, tells for the first time of her chilling ordeal. "I thought I was going to die. But I wasn't going down without the fight of my life," she says. A nursing assistant, Melissa had taken on some shifts with a babysitting agency on the Gold Coast and had been booked to look after two children at suite 1312 at the Grand Apartments. "I telephoned the father, Jonathon, to introduce myself," she says. "We had a quick chat and I had no reason to be concerned." But unknown to Melissa and hotel staff, the "father", computer expert Jonathon Richwood, had turned his two-bedroom unit overlooking the Gold Coast Broadwater into a torture chamber and weapon-packed fortress. Police later found a long-range rocket launcher, flame throwers, grenades, guns and homemade bombs filled with nails in the apartment. He'd put chains and cuffs as "torture restraints" on a wall in one room, and stockpiled food to last a month. Don't miss this week's issue of Woman's Day (on sale April 2) to read this truly heroic story — how a crazed man plotted to torture and kill six women, and how Melissa disrupted his plans... and saved the lives of many in the process.

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