Psychologist Risked Own Life To Save Colleague From Attempted Murder

If Martha Knox-Haly hadn't been running late to work on that fateful morning in August 2015, she might never have been stabbed twice in the head -- and her colleague might not be alive.

By pure chance, the Sydney-based psychologist pulled up to work 15 minutes late. What happened next would land two people in hospital and a third in jail for at least 14 years.

"I was incredibly lucky," she told 10 daily.

"We were incredibly lucky."

In a violent incident that would later be detailed in court, Knox-Haly stepped in save her colleague from being murdered by her estranged husband, Sheldon Vaughan.

Knox-Haly noticed her colleague -- whom 10 daily has chosen not to name -- looking "absolutely terrified" in the car, while her husband loomed outside, trapping her.

Vaughan assured Knox-Haly that it was nothing to worry about, and so she turned away.

"But then [the wife] started screaming," Knox-Haly said.

READ MORE: The Domestic Violence Signs That Are Still Overlooked

The next events unfolded very quickly. Knox-Haly is both a specialist in dealing with workplace violence and has a strong background in martial arts, so was not only able to move more quickly than most 49-year-olds, but to "keep moving despite the pain".

She pulled Vaughan off his wife, falling to the floor. Vaughan pulled out a knife and stabbed Knox-Haly twice in the head. Bleeding heavily, she got back up. Vaughan jumped into his car, reversed, and aimed at Knox-Haly and his former wife.

"I thought, 'I could stand between his oncoming vehicle and this other car, to try and protect her'," she said.

When she realised with horror that he wasn't going to stop -- and that she could potentially lose her legs if she stayed -- she jumped out of the way at the last minute.

Vaughan hit his wife, reversed, and hit her again. He then fled the scene.

Both women were transported to hospital. Knox-Haly said her head wounds were still bleeding some 14 months later. Her colleague suffered fractures to her ribs, shoulder, vertebrae and pelvis, and is still traumatised by the event.

Vaughan, who turned himself into police, would go on to plead guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent to murder and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Now, three years later, Knox-Haly has been formally recognised for her bravery by the Royal Humane Society of NSW, alongside 36 others who put their lives at risk to save someone in immediate danger.

Martha Knox-Haly with her bravery award. Photo: Supplied.

"He had a really good go," she said of Vaughan's attack.

"I'm lucky that I am alive. My son is lucky that he has a mother still. My husband is lucky that he has his wife."

The award, she said, is a "huge honour", but stressed that she's not an unusual person.

"Anybody can be a hero," she said.

"Everybody has the capability to be brave and stand up. I didn't think I'd ever be in that situation, but when push comes to shove, we're all capable of standing up and doing the right thing."

After a particularly few horrific months of violence against women, she's calling on the good men to step up and challenge sexist, misogynistic and violent behaviours of those around them.

READ MORE: Why Isn't Violence Against Women A National Crisis, The Project Asks

"The vast majority of decent men I think need to step up and challenge their mates who are ratbags, the ones who are ruining it for the decent men. I think they need to hold them to account," she said.

Although the experience would not stop her from jumping in to help another person in a violent situation, it has put her on her guard.

"I'm comfortable with men, I like men, I understand how they operate. I'd never seen men as a threat," she said.

"Now, I'm just very aware that while the vast majority of men are not dangerous, there is a small percentage. If I hear a particularly aggressive male tone, I'm wary."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Photo: Supplied