By Nicole Precel – The Age
A Red Cross volunteer has revealed she thought she was going to die when her Hillside home was ambushed and she was held hostage.
Val, 59, was grabbed, beaten, and forced to give up the code to her iPad by a group of young men on January 4, while house sitting her nephew’s house.
“I’m recovering. I must admit, I’m recovering but it was a very terrifying ordeal,” she told 3AW.
About 11.30pm, the 152cm-high woman got up to let her dog out when she saw men bashing the back door in with baseball bats.
“It was terrifying, it took me a couple of seconds to actually realise it was real,” she said.
“I realised there were all these black figures standing at the glass door at the back and they just started bashing the door in and breaking the glass.”
She was alone at the time, tried to run but tripped over the dog in the hallway, before she said she was picked up by her pyjamas and put in the lounge room.
“I sat there and thought, oh my god, what am I going to do? Am I going to die right now?” she said.
“They came in, they told me to sit there or I’d get hurt if I didn’t do as I was told.”
She says she was then dragged into the front study of the house where one of the men stood over her with a baseball bat while the others ransacked the house, pulled draws out and mattresses off of bed.
She said they stole imported American shoes, a child’s scooter, a money box and two sets of car keys.
They also stole her iPad, which she was using to communicate with her husband in hospital after he suffered a Christmas Eve heart attack.
“I said, ‘please don’t take that, my husband’s in hospital and I need that to comfort him’ and he just laughed in my face and said, ‘bad luck’.”
She also said she was slapped.
“It was traumatic enough, he just brought his hand up and waved it across and he caught me in the mouth and I was bleeding from the mouth. But that was the only real violence, but in saying that it was still terrifying having all these people standing there with baseball bats threatening you every couple of seconds.
“He threatened me the whole time, saying you move you get the bat, I’ll just bash you”.
Since the attack, Val is having trouble sleeping and has moved to her sister’s house because it has security shutters.
“Yeh I am having terrible, terrible trouble sleeping,” she said.
“I’m sleeping with a light on in the actual room because I don’t feel safe sleeping in the dark just yet. I’s been a bit hard I must admit. I think it will take a while to feel actually safe.”
Police are still investigating the attack and have not yet identified how many men were involved but witnesses have said they were of African appearance. No charges have been laid.
A second home invasion took place about 12.45am on Friday in Coleridge Drive, Delahey but it’s unclear if the offenders were the same group.
The incidents took place during a crime spree in Melbourne’s west, which sparked concerns over members of the African-Australian community’s involvement in street crime and has led to politicians trading barbs over whether Victoria is experiencing a law-and-order crisis.
Val believes the government should be doing something to tackle the problem.
“I work for the Red Cross as a volunteer and I work with some beautiful African people who have gone through the trauma of losing their whole family back in their whole country. You think, hang on a minute, not everybody is bad,” she said.
“(The government) have to stop hiding it (street crime), they have to get on with the job, they have to fix the problem because people can’t live in fear, it’s not fair, we’re in Australia.”
On Wednesday, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said he believed the issue was being overblown by some.
“I’ve heard people say that Victoria is not a safe place to live,” he said.
“That’s complete and utter garbage. There are people who have been affected by crime, and that’s always been the case, and that’s the case in every city in Australia, and the same as every city in the world.”
An African-Australian community taskforce is being set up to work closely with police on youth offending and antisocial behaviour.