Two men went to work this week and never came home.

A week ago, in two separate Australian homes, across two separate states, there were five little children being tucked into bed by the men they love most: Dad.

Snug under their doonas, there was no way to predict their innocent lives were about to be shattered.

Tonight, these same five little children won’t be getting a goodnight kiss from their fathers, because of two random acts of violence.

The kind of senseless acts committed by the men who prowl our nightmares. Acts that don’t even take a minute, but leave behind crushing consequences.

brett forte widow
Brett Forte and his wife Susan. Source: Facebook.

On Monday afternoon Brett Forte, a 37-year-old policeman from Queensland's Toowoomba, was fatally shot in a spray of bullets by a crazed gunman. Brett had been following the man, wanted for questioning, in a low-speed car chase.

Then he was ambushed. The killer stopped suddenly, stepped out of his vehicle, and showered the police car in bullets. Glass smashed. As Brett tried desperately to escape by reversing, he was shot dead through the windscreen. His partner tried to drag him to safety - all while being ravaged by gunfire - but there was nothing she could do.

Brett's murderer, a 40-year-old career criminal with a long history of violent charges to his name, would eventually be killed himself after a 20-hour stand-off with police in Lockyer Valley.

But murder doesn't bring all life to a grinding halt. Days later, Brett's wife Susan, also a police officer, still has to tuck her children in at night. And three little kids will still grow up without their dad.

A day after Brett's murder, 41-year-old heart surgeon Dr Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann was left fighting for his life after being allegedly king-hit in the foyer of the very hospital he works at in Melbourne's Box Hill.


It's believed he'd asked a man to butt out his cigarette in the non-smoking area. He simply asked someone to stop smoking. That was his error. And he was punched in the head. With one jab, he dropped to the ground, unconscious.

His alleged attacker is now sitting a cell, while Patrick's wife and young twins gather at his hospital bedside, praying for a miracle.

At this point, the prognosis is "devastating". Should he survive, he may not be the same man his wife married. Colleagues fear it's "almost certain" he will never work again as a doctor. The damage done to his brain is likely far too severe.

Brett had been in the police force for more than 15 years. Patrick has been serving as a doctor for about the same time.

These are men who were just out doing their jobs. Jobs that involve protecting and healing the community. We sleep better at night because of brave people like Brett and Patrick.

Nobody should have to go to work and face never returning home. There must be more we can do, more protections for those who look after us.

Following Tuesday's attack, the Victorian Government has vowed to make security improvements at public hospitals. It's about time. Only three years ago, a neurosurgeon was almost stabbed to death at Footscray's Western General Hospital.

For police, the answer is less clear. A friend of Brett's has said the officer had previously voiced concerns for his safety with the increase in drug-related crime. It's an issue that's since been acknowledged by Queensland's Police Commissioner, along with the growing black market in guns.

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Still, for two families, it is too late now to quash the sudden, intense heartache covering their lives.

These are two men with wives who adore them, and little children who look up to them. Their stories are painful to read about. But it's also impossible to imagine the pain these two families must be going through.

I am so sorry for this pain.

I am so deeply sorry for Brett's widow, and for the three children who will never again be told a bedtime story by their father.

And I so intensely hope Patrick will beat the odds, that he will once again open his eyes to see his wife's face, and that his two babies will once again have Dad's goodnight kisses.

Donations for the Brett Forte Remembrance Fund:

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