Bravery award for couple who protected East Grinstead rape victim

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Courageous couple, Lisa Barnard and Damien Hawkins, came to the aid of a female subject to a horrific attack, putting themselves in the line of fire to assist her escape.

A Sussex police statement says that at 2am on Saturday, June 1, 2013 in Badgers Way, East Grinstead, Lisa and Damien came across a woman being attacked on a secluded footpath. Having been grabbed while listening to headphones on her way home, she had been forced down the path and subjected to repeated rapes while the offender held a broken bottle to her throat. The victim had also been severely beaten during the attack.

When Damien and Lisa moved to intervene and place themselves between the man and his victim, the offender became increasingly threatening towards them. Damien stood between the victim and the attacker, without thought for his own safety, while Lisa stood as a human shield, wrapping her arms around the female. They refused to leave, remaining with the victim trying to diffuse the situation. The offender, at one point, held the broken bottle up to Damien’s throat.

Seeing her chance to escape, the victim then ran away into a nearby housing estate and to safety.

The police statement adds that this was a very serious and violent sexual attack which thankfully came to a conclusion when Damien and Lisa arrived. “Without doubt the situation could have been even more serious had it not been for their quick thinking and brave actions. “The offender would, in all certainty, have gone on to attack other females had he not been appended.

“Although forensic evidence secured his conviction, both Damien and Lisa protected the distraught female with no thought for their own safety and they were prepared to continue to assist the police in any way they could, providing statements and willingness to go to court if necessary.

“The offender was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.”

Mid-Sussex District police commander, Chief Inspector Simon Beardwell, said; “”Lisa and Damien acted with great presence of mind and their prompt action saved the victim from further attack.”

Have-a-go heroes from across the country were rewarded for their courage at the national Police Public Bravery Awards earlier this month.

The event, organised by South Yorkshire Police were held at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate where 38 members of the public, aged ten to 76 were recognised for acts of outstanding bravery in assisting the police.