Real Life

Real life: Our home invasion horror

Despite what had happened there, Meggs had a special reason to go back to the house that haunted her.

By John Parrish

Meggs Hannes, 39, shares her true life story:

Sitting on the couch, I struggled to keep my eyes open.
It wasn't even that late, but I was beyond tired.
"I'm going to bed," I said to my husband, Michael as I stifled a yawn.
Through bleary eyes, I saw two men in balaclavas at the foot of the bed. One had a gun with a silencer attached.
"Oh my God!" I gasped, turning to Michael.
My blood ran cold as I realised he wasn't beside me, he was tied up on the floor next to the bed.
"Yeah, reckon I'll join you," he replied wearily.
Michael and I had exhausting schedules.
We lived on a 20-hectare farm in peaceful Lancefield, Vic, and were self-sufficient, keeping pigs, sheep, cattle and chooks.
We grew all our own vegetables, too.
I ran a business selling vegies and free-range eggs, and helped organise the Lancefield Farmers' Market.
Michael not only worked all hours on our farm, but also managed a vineyard.
We also had a little girl, Merry, two, who kept us on our toes.
She'd gone to bed a few hours earlier.
We both walked down the hall, not bothering to lock up – we'd never felt the need to, living somewhere so quiet and peaceful.
I put on my PJs, got into bed and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I nodded off.
The next thing I was aware of was the bedroom light suddenly being on.
At first we thought they were policemen.
"You have the right to silence," one of the men growled.
As my eyes adjusted, I realised they were wearing police vests.
Relief flooded through me – it must be some awful mistake.
"You've got the wrong house, mate," Michael said, clearly coming to the same realisation.
"We don't have the wrong house," the man snapped. "Now, where's the cash and drugs?"
Cash and drugs?
"We don't have any!" I said.
The men weren't listening.
Then, before I could react, one came over to me, binding my feet together and taping my hands behind my back.
I was frozen with fear.
Then I noticed something.
While the men had on police vests, the rest of their clothes weren't uniform.
They were dressed in scruffy old trackies and runners.
A terrible feeling crept over me as I realised they weren't real police officers.
I thought of Merry in the next room and felt sick to my stomach.
"Is there anyone else in the house?" one of the men demanded.
I wanted to lie, to tell him there was no-one.
But if he found Merry, and realised I hadn't been telling the truth, what might he do?
I decided to be honest.
"My little girl is in the next room," I stammered. "Please don't hurt her..."
"She'll be fine, just tell us what we want to know," the man said.
Our little girl, Merry.
"There's nothing here!" I insisted.
Why weren't they listening to me?
Did we look like the sort of people who stashed drugs and cash in the house?!
The second man had barely spoken and looked hyped up on drugs.
He grabbed hold of Michael and dragged him out of the bedroom with the gun to his head.
My heart hammered in my chest.
"Where is the money and drugs?" his accomplice asked again, rummaging through the wardrobe and drawers.
"You won't find what you're looking for because we don't have any!" I protested. "Please just take whatever you want and leave."
Next thing, the man pulled what looked like a pistol out of his pocket.
"Do you know what this is?" he leered, waving it in my face.
I shook my head, too terrified to speak.
"It's a taser," he snarled. "And I'm going to shove it up you."
Then he ripped off my pyjamas and sexually assaulted me.
I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and tried to stay calm as nausea washed over me.
I felt so violated.
For the next hour, the two men turned the house upside down, convinced we had a stash of drugs and piles of cash.
I could hear them banging about and the sound of things being smashed as they frantically searched.
They hadn't brought Michael back.
I hoped desperately that he was still alive.
Then, in that moment, a car went by and the headlights shining in through the windows seemed to spook them.
They looked at each other in fear, quickly turned off the lights, and then fled.
"One had a gun with a silencer attached"
Suddenly, I heard Michael's voice.
"Are you okay?" he gasped as soon as they were gone.
"Yes," I said.
Michael crawled into the room from around the corner, where they'd left him.
We both wriggled and thrashed, trying everything we could to get the tape off but it was just too difficult.
Michael managed to crawl to the phone and dial triple 0 using his nose.
Even when the real cops arrived, I was shaking in terror, worried they were accomplices of the men who'd just left.
I cried with relief when they freed us.
Thankfully, Merry had slept through what had gone on, and later came to see me when the ambulance arrived.
"It's okay," I soothed, kissing her cheeks.
But it wasn't okay, far from it.
In my mind I replayed what those men had done to me again and again.
"I'm so sorry," Michael wept.
After we gave our statements to the police, we went to stay with friends.
There was no way I could go back home.
For the next six months we stayed away from the farm, trying to heal.
The police couldn't find the two men responsible. I became convinced they'd track us down and finish us off.
In the end we sold the farm and moved to the NSW Northern Rivers for a fresh start.
But not long after, my mum who lived in Victoria, was diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer.
I shuttled backwards and forwards, trying to be there for her as much as possible.
Sadly, Michael died of a head injury 18 months after the attack. Losing him was devastating.
It was devastating to lose Michael.
Eventually, I returned to be with Mum all the time.
I thought I'd feel haunted, or scared that the men would return, but actually, being close to nature again and going for walks and swims in a place I loved calmed my anxiety.
"Aren't you scared?" Mum asked.
"I can't let fear dictate my life," I said.
The Lancefield Farmers' Market asked me to return to my old job so I decided to give it a go.
Sadly, in July last year, Mum passed away.
I've been through so much in the last few years.
Merry's nearly five and knows that some bad men came to our house and that's why we moved.
I've told her how much her daddy loved her.
She's young and resilient and she's coping well.
For a long time I felt like a victim, but then I realised I wasn't.
I'm strong, I'm a survivor and with my little girl I've a great life to look forward to.

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