A disgruntled ex-tenant who viciously attacked his former landlord in her Port Kembla home was interrupted mid-way through the incident by a heroic neighbour, who put himself in harm's way to protect the elderly woman.
Donna Porcella, 75, was in her Fitzwilliam Street home on the morning of February 23 when recently evicted tenant, Heath Simpson, forced his way inside the house and attacked her with a taser.
Ms Porcella's neighbour, Joel Fitsimmons, heard her screams and came running, putting himself between Simpson and his by-then unconscious neighbour.
Mr Fitsimmons grappled with Simpson, who repeatedly hit him in the head with the taser and his fist, leaving Mr Fitsimmons dazed and bleeding from the ear.
Speaking to the Mercury at the time, Ms Porcella said she was lucky to be alive and labelled Mr Fitsimmons a hero.
"It could have been a totally different outcome if Joel hadn't have been there," she said.
"I want people to know what a brave person Joel is. Everyone should have a neighbour like Joel."
For his part, Mr Fitsimmons said instinct took over when he heard Ms Porcella's screams.
"I just thought about protecting her," he said.
"I wasn't thinking about myself. My instinct took over and I just knew I had to save her life.
"My only idea was to get him out of the house."
Simpson pleaded guilty in Wollongong Local Court this week to a charge of special aggravated break and enter and commit wounding while armed with a dangerous weapon, as well as a charge of robbery stemming from an earlier incident in which he stole $260 from Ms Porcella after confronting her in the street.
A set of agreed facts tendered to the court said Simpson was wearing a ski mask when he knocked on Ms Porcella's front door just after 7am, pushing it open as she answered it and sending her sprawling onto the ground.
He tried to close the door behind him but Ms Porcella's legs were in the way and she started kicking out at him and screaming for help.
Simpson responded by telling her "shut up you f---king bitch" and prodding her with a taser he was carrying in his hand.
Ms Porcella later told police she immediately recognised Simpson's voice.
Meanwhile, Mr Fitsimmons heard Ms Porcella's screams and ran to the back door of her property. He said he peered in through the window, at which time he could see Simpson holding Ms Porcella on the ground and attempted to punch her.
Enraged, Mr Fitsimmons yelled "get the f--k off her you animal" and forced his way inside the home, immediately positioning himself between Simpson and Ms Porcella, who was now lying unresponsive on the floor.
Simpson and Fitsimmons grappled with each other, with Simpson gaining the upper hand and repeatedly striking Mr Fitsimmons in the head.
Simpson left through the front door and Mr Fitsimmons followed him outside, collapsing on the front lawn as Simpson made his escape.
Ms Porcella regained consciousness and came outside. The pair contacted triple-0 and paramedics and police arrived a short time later.
Ms Porcella was taken to Wollongong Hospital where she was diagnosed with a mild intracranial haemorrhage, minor cuts and bruising.
Mr Fitsimmons had a 2mm cut to his right ear that required eight stitches.
Meanwhile, investigating police found a black bag at the property that containing duct tape and a sock. Simpson's DNA was found on all the items.
He was arrested in the Newcastle area later that same day.
Simpson was refused bail and has remained behind bars ever since.
The case was adjourned to Wollongong District Court on December 12 for a sentencing date to be set.
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