NOT a day goes by when Mal Waterhouse doesn’t think about August 2, 1974.
The unarmed sergeant raced to a distress call in a suburban Ballarat street, only to be confronted by a knife-wielding man who stabbed him and fellow policeman, Detective Senior Constable Ron Ritchie, as they tried to overpower him.
“He was frothing at the mouth, he was going to kill me,” Mr Waterhouse said.
“I’ve never got over it physically. And hardly a night goes by when I don’t think about it.”
Mr Waterhouse was speaking about his experience to support proposed state government legislation calling for tougher sentences for people who attack emergency service workers.
“All emergency service workers should be entitled to have the maximum law brought down on people who attack them.”
People who attack police, ambulance officers, firefighters, protective services officers, SES workers, lifesavers, nurses, doctors and other emergency department staff will have an extra 12 months added to whatever sentence would normally apply when the legislation is passed.
Forty years ago, Mr Waterhouse was heading to Beaufort when he received the call about an incident in Chamberlain Street about 8.50am.
“When I got there, there was an eight-year-old lying on the road with a knife in his chest. I lifted him up and he died.”
Mr Waterhouse said the child’s father was trying to break into a neighbour’s house where his other two children were sheltering.
Their mother was already lying dead in their house.
“I went up to the neighbour’s house. He was at the back door trying to kick it in to get to his other two children.
“I tried to disarm him but he pushed me back towards his house, attacking me with a 15-inch knife.
“I hit him hard but that just made him madder.”
At that time, Detective Senior Constable Ron Ritchie appeared and tried to help disarm the offender.
“He stabbed me first in the abdomen and then he stabbed Ron in the side.”
The man fled before being captured in Warrenheip. He later hanged himself in jail.
Mr Waterhouse had to have two major operations as the knife knicked a major artery in his pelvis.
“For years, people have criticised police for doing their job but you don’t know what you would do until you are confronted with a hostile situation,” he said.