A Victorian jeweller who was murdered by an ice-crazed man after coming to the aid of his wife has been posthumously awarded one of Australia’s highest bravery accolades.
Dermot O’Toole is among the six of the latest recipients of the Star of Courage, which recognises “acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of great peril”.
The 64-year-old died in July 2013 after being stabbed with a carving knife during a botched robbery at his store in Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula.
He had rushed from the back of the shop to help his wife, Bridget O’Toole, after she was stabbed and thrown into a glass cabinet by the robber, Gavin Perry.
The store owner struggled with Perry before he fell backwards onto the floor and was attacked with the knife.
Perry fled with a pad of toe rings and left Mr O’Toole to die in his shop.
The 27-year-old was high after taking ice and on parole at the time of the murder.
He was jailed for 27 years in 2014 for the crime and two earlier armed robberies on businesses in Cranbourne.
Ms O’Toole said her husband would have been humbled but also surprised by the honour.
“He would be thinking, ‘what’s all the fuss about, my goodness wouldn’t anybody do that’,” she said.
“But not everybody would be that brave.”
‘He was so vicious I didn’t have a hope’
A homicide squad detective put the jeweller’s name forward to an independent advisory body which makes bravery award recommendations to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.
The award brought mixed emotions for Ms O’Toole, amid the ongoing emotional pain of losing her husband of 41 years.
“I couldn’t stop crying, I cried for hours, I shook, you just have all these mixed emotions, but it was just such a bright moment,” she said.
She has no doubt that without his selfless act of bravery, she would have died at the hands of Perry.
“The attack was so ferocious and he was so vicious, I just didn’t have a hope,” she said.
Ms O’Toole remembers her husband as a funny, kind and hard-working man who loved his business and the community of Hastings.