In a moving ceremony, surrounded by family and friends, Mrs Bridget O’Toole of Clyde North, Victoria, was awarded the Clarke Gold Medal for the most outstanding case of bravery considered during the year. Mrs O’Toole went to the rescue of her husband, Dermot, who was being attacked by an assailant at their Hastings Jewellery store on 12 July 2013.
The 2017 Clarke Gold Medal, the highest honour conferred by the Royal Humane Society of Australasia, was presented to Bridget by The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Melbourne Councillor Sally Capp at Melbourne Town Hall on 23 August 2018.
Many in the room, including Lord Mayor Sally Capp, were moved to tears as the citation for Mrs O’Toole’s act of bravery was read out:
A disguised man entered the jewellery store with a large carving knife at 5pm. As Mrs O’Toole came out to the counter in the belief that a customer had entered, she was attacked by the armed assailant who her pushed her into a glass cabinet and stabbed her several times.
During the attack Mr O’Toole who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, came out from the workshop to defend his wife and began wrestling with the assailant. Mr O’Toole was knocked to the ground and stabbed twice in the chest. Mrs O’Toole attempted to pull the offender away from her husband and in doing so she was further assaulted by the assailant. The assailant then ran out of the shop.
Tragically Mr O’Toole was fatally wounded with stab wounds to the upper chest and died at the scene. Mrs O’Toole suffered numerous severe wounds.
The assailant was charged with the murder of Mr O’Toole and armed robbery and intentionally causing injury to Mrs O’Toole and was sentenced to a total term of 27 years’ imprisonment.
Speaking with media, Mrs O’Toole said the healing process had been slow. “I’m still quite fractured. I haven’t reached peace yet. I’m a work in progress. I’ve struggled very badly with survivor guilt and I think could I have done more to save Dermot.”
She continued: “I have to be kinder to myself and realise that I did everything possible to save Dermot.”
Bridget was surrounded family during the interview. When asked about his mum, Christian said: “She’s a remarkable woman, strong, courageous, We’ve believed that and I think it’s time for mum to believe that.”
Dermot was recognized posthumously one year ago, having been awarded the Star of Courage. Bridget intends to proudly place her medal next to her late husband’s.