A Melbourne mother still has nightmares after dodging bullets and a machete to take on three robbers in an extraordinary act of bravery that helped save her family.
Mary Sawan has recalled how she rushed to the aid of her husband when he was pinned down by intruders during a home invasion that still disturbs the mother of three.
“We were very, very lucky, like, really lucky that we got out of this,” Mrs Sawan told The New Daily.
“But it’s always in the back of your mind: What if?”
Mrs Sawan, 50, runs a cafe by day but for a frenzied moment on August 28 four years ago she became a crime fighter, defending her husband and son from crooks who barged into their Malvern East property.
Court documents show the three men were carrying a .22 calibre rifle, a handgun, an 80-centimetre machete, a 40-centimetre-long screwdriver, a crowbar, and plastic ties that could be used as handcuffs.
Mrs Sawan’s first act of bravery came after she saw her husband Paul being pinned down by intruders.
By that time, Mr Sawan had already endured a terrifying ordeal when one of the men pointed a long arm rifle at him.
Mrs Sawan jumped on the man who was holding down Paul, and ripped off his balaclava.
The revelation of the man’s identity startled him and gave Mr Sawan a chance to fight back.
“Paul was bleeding through the mouth, his eyes were black. He was beaten up,” Mrs Sawan said.
She later tackled a second intruder, who was holding a pistol, and successfully took off his balaclava, too.
The woman’s quick thinking under fire in 2015 has earned her a Star of Courage in the Australian Bravery Awards, which will be announced on Thursday.
Mrs Sawan said she was happy but a little embarrassed by the recognition, adding she had acted on instinct in what was a terrifying moment for which nobody could prepare.
Mrs Sawan recalled how she had been blowdrying her hair to get ready for work, about 4.30am, when she heard a crashing noise downstairs.
“You just know, it was something I’ve never heard in my life. When I heard that, I knew something was wrong,” she said.
The trouble had begun moments earlier when Mr Sawan saw a flash of light and three figures as he walked through the house to let out the family’s dogs.
“They [intruders] charged through, so [Mr Sawan] came running from the kitchen. He thought he’d shut the door, but he didn’t make it in time,” Mrs Sawan said.
When Mrs Sawan went to investigate the noise she found her husband pinned to the couch.
The third man began shooting into the home from the doorway, with a bullet flying past her.
“I thought I got shot, do you know that? I actually thought I got shot,” Mrs Sawan said.
She managed to pull off the balaclava and her husband got up, also bravely taking on the intruders alongside the couple’s 21-year-old son, who had by this time woken from the couch where he had fallen asleep while watching television.
Mrs Sawan said it was her husband’s bravery in throwing a large bowl that also saved them.
She said the intruders were scared off by the noise and dropped some of their bags and belongings before taking off down the street.
“All the glass was shattered with bullets, and the TV had a bullet in it, and inside the couches, the back of the couch or something there was bullets … and then the floorboards had bullets.”
The family almost moved out after their ordeal, but decided: “I’m not going to let them win. This is my house.
“We’ve just taken it (security) to the next level. We’ve got a camera upstairs [and] any noise, we seem to bounce straight away.
“We’ve had a couple of times after that where we’ve seen cars that don’t look like they fit in our area and we’ve rung the police.”
A total of eight shots were fired, court documents show, seven from the .22 firearm and one from the handgun.
Victoria Police charged three men, but two were found not guilty.
Dimi Sovolos will be eligible for parole in 2022 after being found guilty of aggravated burglary, reckless conduct endangering life and intentionally causing injury.
Mrs Sawan is among 101 Australians set to receive a bravery medal, to be awarded by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove.