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Constable Toddy Martin at Auckland's Bastion Point in the concrete bunker where he suffered a potentially fatal stab wound to his face last October during a routine inquiry. Photos: ELLEN BROOK

Talk about a bad day on the beat: The day that Community Constable Toddy Martin got stabbed in the face is one he’s had to talk about quite a lot since – reporting to his superiors and to OSH and talking to colleagues. And that’s been good, he says. Not just for him, but for the other officers who were involved and those who heard about it later. By Ellen Brook

Toddy Martin says that going over what happened at Auckland’s Bastion Point on October 7 last year has been helpful. “There’s a bit of a macho culture among police which means you don’t say much. But this was serious and it should be discussed more openly.” Not least he says because there were some “stupid rumours” about what happened and he wants to set the record straight.

His biggest motivation for telling his story, however, is that the incident had a dramatic impact on staff, some of whom needed counselling. “When something like this happens, it’s very personal. It really hits families hard and it really affected my colleagues too. It was a combination of it being me [someone they knew well], the fear associated with the attack, and then searching for the offender.”

He says it’s also a staff safety issue and a reminder that such things do happen. “We need to acknowledge that these sorts of things can have a long-term effect on everyone.”

It was also a timely reminder to Police of how violent and unpredictable the job is at times, he says.

A small miracle

The two-centimetre scar on the right side of Toddy’s nose is the relatively minor outward sign of the assault that nearly cost him his life. The knife that did the damage came within two millimetres of a major artery in his head.

The Auckland Hospital surgeon who patched him up told Toddy it was a small miracle he was still alive. If the artery had even been nicked, there would have been no recovery.

As it was, the force of the blow to his face chipped off a piece of bone around his eye socket and “minced” the tear duct on the right eye. “The knife came within one centimetre of my right eye. It sliced the sinus on the left, went down into my face, slid over the top of my palate, through more sinus and almost out the left side of my face,” he says matter of factly.

He has ongoing discomfort and nerve damage to his face and has lost his sense of smell on the left side.

It took five weeks to recover from the attack and the surgery required to remove the piece of bone and repair the tear duct.

He’s had lots of messages of support from retired and serving officers, here and overseas, many of whom shared their own accounts of similar incidents.

Toddy took part in the required counselling sessions, which were helpful, and he’s back at work. For him, he says, being open about what happened has been the best therapy.

The day of the assault

Toddy is obviously a pragmatic type of bloke. Now 47, he joined Police 10 years ago – a late starter after a career in the horticultural and landscaping business. He’s built a reputation as a reliable, clear-headed community constable and role model and really enjoys working his Newmarket patch, which includes St Heliers and Mission Bay.

On the day of the assault, Toddy had just returned to work after a week’s leave during the school holidays, spending time with his wife, Lisa, daughter Holly (20) and son, Kurt (18), who has an intellectual disability.

He was going through his emails, when his Super suggested he head down to Mission Bay a bit earlier in the day as there were lots of people around because of the school break.

“I heard a job come over the radio … it sounded like a road-rage incident involving a cyclist. Comms had dispatched an i-car from Auckland. About 10 minutes later, another report came over the radio that the cyclist was near the Tamaki Yacht Club. There had been other recent reports of problems involving an aggressive man on a pushbike in Tamaki Drive.

“I heard on the radio that the informant had lost ‘obs’ on the person, last seen heading towards Bastion Point. I thought I would just swing by there. I thought this could be the same person who had previously been causing problems in the area. It was in the back of my mind that it could be the same guy. It was on my patch and I thought I’d like to know who he is.

“I get to Bastion Point and see the i-car parked up, but no officers. Then I see a flash of blue uniform up the hill, disappearing through the trees. I parked my car and took a swig of my takeaway coffee – it was foul – and had a bite of a muesli bar – it tasted like cardboard. Not a great morning tea.

“I headed up the hill, dodging around one of the boys hired by the council to mow the grass. He was on his ride-on mower. I gave him a wave and headed over to the three bunkers that I knew were behind the scrub up ahead.

In the bunker

“I heard voices coming from one of the bunkers. I walked down the track between the bunkers and there they were, just inside the bunker on the left. The officers were talking to a man, who had his back to me. I stood and watched and listened. I wasn’t there to interfere. They had the matter in hand.

“The bunkers are often used by ‘lags’ in the summer months and police generally leave them be as they don’t cause any trouble. This guy seemed to have been dossing there and even had some washing hanging out to dry on the edge of the bunker.”

The two officers in the bunker were Constable Andy Clarke, 27, and Probationary Constable Alan Wung, 27, who had responded to the callout.

The man they were interviewing turned around and saw Toddy. “He sees me and starts talking to me. He’s very polite. Meanwhile, Andy was looking in his backpack and Alan was writing notes. Andy unzipped the backpack and the guy says, ‘Don’t look in the bag, I haven’t given you authority to look in my bag.’ As it turns out, it contained a big, industrial-size toilet roll. The man zips his bag up, apologises and says there has been a misunderstanding.

“I told him there had been some incidents reported and we needed to get to the bottom of it so there would be no repeat of the problems. He was okay with that and said he didn’t know anything.

“From then on, he took more of an interest in me. He stood in front of me, a little more than an arm’s length away. We chatted. I’m trying to keep him talking, to distract him, make him comfortable and so the other guys can hear what he’s saying.

“I’m looking straight at him, not noticing anything about his behaviour that might indicate a problem or that he had a weapon, although I could tell he probably had some mental health issues.”

Toddy questioned the man about where he lived now and where he had lived in the past and eventually he realised he was probably the same person who had come to police attention some years earlier in another Auckland suburb for carrying a concealed weapon.

“As I was piecing things together, while talking to him, I remember the sudden change in his face and his eyes. After that, all I remember is the side of a fist in my face. He was incredibly fast and there was no warning.

“I believe the knife was up his sleeve, but I only saw his knuckles. I felt the impact. I knew in an instant that I hadn’t been punched. I’ve been punched plenty of times before, so I know what that feels like. This was a pulling and scraping feeling . . . like a knife being drawn through a cardboard box.

“The blow knocked me back. I didn’t know what I had been attacked with. I thought there was something in my face or my head. Then there was the blood . . . a mist of blood in the sunlight.

“Stepping back, I noticed blood on my hands. I was trying to assess my situation and I was expecting another blow. I moved back a couple of metres. I couldn’t hear what was going on inside the bunker. But then Andy came tearing out of the bunker with this guy right behind him waving his hands around.”

Andy had seen the man hit Toddy. He, too, thought it was a punch. “I thought, that’s a strange way to punch, then I heard Toddy screaming. I saw the knife and the man’s hand covered in blood. I grabbed him by the shoulder to take him down and then he charged at me with the knife held high, trying to stab me in the head. It was pure luck that I didn’t get hit. He was running towards me and slashing at my head. There was nothing I could do but back away, ducking left and right. I managed to side-step a bit and duck under his arm.

“I went around the corner to find Toddy, who was bleeding heavily. I asked him if he was all right and he muttered a few swear words, but he was still standing. I was worried about my partner, so I went back around the corner. The man was still there, threatening Alan with the knife.

“He charged at Alan with the knife held over his head. I chased him for about 15 metres. Alan got his Taser out and presented it, but he didn’t fire it. I was yelling for him to shoot it. At that point, the man fell over and then shot off at a 90-degree angle into the bush. We followed, but lost him in the undergrowth in an area that he obviously knew well.

“As I was running through the bush, I got on the radio to say an officer had been stabbed. I got back down to the car and got the Glock out, keeping an eye on the bush and waiting for back-up.”

A dark moment

Meanwhile, Toddy, who was bleeding heavily from his face, was still on the path behind the bunker, disoriented and worried. “It was a dark moment. I didn’t know where the offender was. I assumed that Andy and Alan had been stabbed. I was thinking about them, and then thinking about the guy on the tractor, the tourists in the area, the mums and dads and pushchairs along Tamaki Drive.

“I’m thinking, ‘We’ve kicked the hornets’ nest here, we’ve set something in motion. How is it going to end?’

“I was talking to myself, trying to keep breathing; my mouth was filling up with blood. I was spitting out clots, swallowing blood and struggling to breathe. Everything was really, really quiet. I couldn’t even hear the birds. It was all in slow motion. Seconds felt like minutes. I’m thinking, ‘This isn’t happening’.

“I realised I needed to let comms know that the boys might be in trouble. I kept expecting to hear something on my radio. I’m thinking that there is death and mayhem out there, so I grabbed my mic and called 10/10 [immediate assistance in fear of death or GBH] by pressing the orange button. I have only heard that call once before in my career, when an officer was attacked on the motorway.

“In my mind, I gave comms a wonderful account of the situation – I’d been stabbed in the face, I was pissing blood and the boys were in trouble. I found out later that comms could hardly make out what I was saying – I’d actually dumped a whole lot of blood into the mic and my radio was buggered.”

Comms knew there was a problem, though, and Andy was calling for assistance at the same time. Help was on its way, but in the meantime the three officers were still anxious that a man with a knife was at large in the bush-clad area.

Toddy was relieved to see Andy and Alan pop out of the scrub below him and he managed to make his way down the bank to the parked police cars. “I get to my car and think, ‘All I have to do is stand upright’. I don’t want to take my eyes off the bush. I’m worried he’s coming for me. I lean on the car, dripping blood.

“Then I heard a minivan with tourists coming round the corner. I call out to Alan and Andy, but they don’t hear me. I walk out into the road and put up my hands to stop the driver. I must have looked a fright. The bus driver quickly turned around.

“Then I think, ‘I have to sit down before I fall down’. There is a set of small bollards. I lean on a bollard in the shade. Alan runs across with the best first aid he can find. It turns out to be a zoot suit, which he tries to pack on my face.

“The blood runs straight through the zoot suit. The i-car should have a good first-aid kit in it, but it doesn’t have what’s needed for this kind of trauma – proper, big pressure bandages that can deal with gunshot or knife wounds.

“An Auckland City Council worker pulls up in a truck. He gets a hell of a fright when he sees me. I say, ‘You’ve got to get out of here; alert your workers to get off Bastion Point’.”

The cavalry arrives

At this point, Toddy is covered in blood. He’s feeling a massive build-up of pressure on the left side of his head. He’s really “feeling like shit” now and, for the first time, he’s starting to get worried about himself, wondering when help will arrive.

Then, in the distance, he hears the whop-whop-whop of Eagle, the Police helicopter. Thank goodness, he thinks. “The cavalry is coming. Eagle comes overhead. It does a wonderful loop. I knew they were looking at me. It was a massive relief to know that there were eyes in the sky. That noise told everyone, ‘Hey, we’re here now’.”

The first cop to arrive on the scene on the ground was a traffic section officer on a motorbike. “He glances at me. I yell at him to say we need someone up the top. There are tourists up there and we don’t know where this guy with the knife is. He gets the Bushmaster out of the car and goes up on foot.”

The next officer to turn up is Toddy’s colleague, another community constable, Chris Gwilliam, from Newmarket. “I’m relieved to see him because he has a military background and I know that means he has excellent first-aid skills. He applied some big, thick pressure bandages to my head.”

Toddy is so bandaged up he can’t see, but he hears the sirens. Cops are pouring in from all over Auckland, including two inspectors, to what they believe could be a multiple stabbing. Cordons are put in place. Eagle is still above.

At this stage the ambulance arrives and Toddy is on his way to Auckland Hospital. “I still don’t know exactly what is wrong with my face. Even the ambos can’t work it out through all the blood.

“On the way to hospital, I’m thinking about how I’m going to explain this to my wife and family. Holy shit, this is not good. We don’t need this on top of everything else.”

Lisa has already been notified. By the time she gets to A&E, the story is on the news.

She finds her husband in the trauma bed, covered in fresh and crusty blood. Several other staff arrive, including Toddy’s boss, Sergeant Greg Rawbone, a police photographer, a Police Association rep and Acting District Commander Inspector Jim Wilson.

After a night in hospital, Toddy goes home to recuperate.

Meanwhile, back at Glen Innes station, where Toddy once worked, two women detectives take it upon themselves to start cleaning his uniform.

Not wanting to see it returned uncleaned, they decided that, out of respect for what Toddy been through, they should be the ones to scrub his blood-soaked clothes and return them to him.

“I only learnt of this after I returned to work and can’t thank them enough. It would have been a horrible job.”

Not long after the ambulance sped Toddy away for medical care, a man was arrested by police. He is currently before the court and at his last appearance he was deemed unfit to stand trial.

We need the tools to do the job


Toddy Martin says he has no anger towards his attacker, though he would like to know what set him off. “For some reason he decided to shove a knife in me. I didn’t provoke him, but there must have been some kind of trigger point. I really thought he was going to go off and hurt people. I felt guilty and I wondered, could I have prevented this.”

After reflecting on the incident, Toddy says he doesn’t want to be used as an advocate for firearms, “but if you want to be able to do your job and you’re being sent into P1 situations, we need the tools to do the job”.

Andy Clarke agrees. Since the incident at Bastion Point, where "my life flashed before my eyes”, he says he’s totally changed his way of thinking about the job. “I know that’s what we signed up for, but I was complacent before. I would go to jobs not expecting anything to happen. Now, I always have something ready to go – Taser, pepper spray or baton.”

The attack on Toddy, and the near miss on his own person, gave him a shock. “I thought, ‘oh, crap, this is the end’, but fight or flight took over. It would have been nice to have had a Glock on my hip at that point.”

Andy says the response from police in Auckland was “awesome” and the three officers have heartfelt respect and thanks for everyone who came out that day.

Toddy notes that several of the officers who showed up to deal with the incident were not responder 1 trained. “This is a concern considering the circumstances staff found themselves in,” he says. As a community constable, under the PITT regime, Toddy is trained only to Level 2 (ie, not trained to use firearms).

“I didn’t join Police to wear a Taser and a firearm, but I have been in the job long enough to understand that, clearly, that has got to happen. If we had been armed, the guy who stabbed me may never have decided to do what he did.”

Police managers have subsequently acted on concerns over tactical training raised by Police Association members over the past year.

Police announced last month that from July 1 an extra 700 staff would be trained to Level 1 responder status, while Level 2 responders would now be given Glock training. Level 3 responders will not get firearms training and will be expected to attend only lower-risk incidents.

All staff will continue to get core training in defensive tactics.

Police Association President Greg O’Connor says the extra training is welcome, but it is really just “catch-up” for Police, which has got “way behind” in the arms race with the criminal fraternity. The benefit of the new training would be for those who might not be fulltime Level 1 responders, but who, like Toddy Martin, are still occasionally called to, and caught up in, high-risk situations, Mr O’Connor said.

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