Celebration and sadness mark bravery award

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Just award: Bridget O’Toole wearing the bravery medal awarded at Melbourne Town Hall. Picture: Supplied

FIVE years after her husband was murdered in front of her in a drug-fuelled attack, Bridget O’Toole has been awarded The Royal Humane Society of Australasia’s 2017 Clarke Gold Medal.

The Clarke Medal is the society’s highest award for the most outstanding case of bravery considered during the year.

The Clarke Gold Medal was presented by The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Sally Capp at Melbourne Town Hall on 23 August.

Mrs O’Toole was attacked by Gavin Perry, 27, after the parolee entered their High Street Hastings jewellery store in July 2013. Brandishing a 20cm carving knife, the assailant threw Mrs O’Toole into a glass cabinet.

Her husband, 64-year-old Dermot O’Toole, rushed into the store to defend her, and struggled with Perry. Mr O’Toole was fatally stabbed during the ordeal.

In 2017, an “emotional and proud” Bridget O’Toole accepted the Star of Courage medal on behalf of her murdered husband.

In the years that followed Mrs O’Toole battled for justice.

Gavin Perry pleaded guilty to Statutory Murder and was handed a 27-year sentence. The terms of the sentence required Perry to serve a minimum of 23 years before being eligible for parole.

The family, left shocked by the lenincy of the sentence, appealled.

In 2016, the family were again left devastated when three justices of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal against the leniency of the jail sentence.

Also dismissed was Perry’s application for leave to appeal the severity of his 27-year sentence.

The five years since her husband’s murder have taken a heavy toll on Mrs. O’Toole.

“We’ve been through hell since that day and nothing will ever make up for it,” said Mrs O’Toole.

“But today was a lovely day, and I am proud to accept this award.”

It was also a chance for her family and friends to get together and share memories of their absent husband, father, grandfather and friend.

“It is difficult to find closure,” said Mrs O’Toole.

Life goes on but the memories of the love she feels for her slain husband will go on forever.

First published in the Western Port News – 4 September 2018

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