‘Please help me’:Court played elderly woman’s screams for help after attack

Warning:This report contains graphic content.

A court has been played distressing recordings of an elderly woman screaming for help after she was viciously beaten and stabbed at her home in Sydney’s inner west.

Marjorie Welsh,92,was discovered by neighbours lying face-down in the back doorway of her Ashbury home with crockery embedded in her head on the morning of January 2,2019.

On trial for murder:Hanny Papanicolaou.

On trial for murder:Hanny Papanicolaou.Facebook

She died in hospital six weeks later from extensive injuries including fractures to her face and limbs,deep lacerations and a collapsed lung.

Hanny Papanicolaou,38,who cleaned Mrs Welsh’s home once a week,is on trial for murder accused of attacking her employer with walking sticks and crockery and stabbing her with a kitchen knife. She has pleaded not guilty.

On Monday,the NSW Supreme Court heard Mrs Welsh wore a personal alarm around her neck which she activated at 10.39am. In response,an operator dialled in to the system’s base unit and asked if she needed help.

In a recording played to the court,Mrs Welsh responded by repeatedly screaming “help”,“help me” and “please help me”. The operator called an ambulance.

Adrian Longo,who lived next door,said he was outside working on his deck when he heard the thud of something hitting the fence next door and looked up to see a small woman climbing over it. Some time later,he heard shouts of “help,help” and went next door to investigate.

“I saw the old lady face-down,” Mr Longo said. “There was all blood on the back of her head,and this blue pottery,blue-whitish pottery.”

Mr Longo said he was “in shock” and thought “this person is gonna die,she’s an old lady”.

Mrs Welsh’s daughter Elizabeth Welsh rushed back from a holiday and saw her mother that evening in intensive care. “It was the most sickening thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Elizabeth Welsh said. “Her face was so bruised and swollen you couldn’t recognise her.”

She said her mother – who had a pacemaker,used a walking stick and had hearing aids – was taken off a heart medication in the days before the attack and had been feeling slower than usual.

Liam Ryan told the court he had been at Peace Park,which backs on to Mrs Welsh’s property,with his two young sons that morning when a woman pulled up and walked in the direction of Mrs Welsh’s home.

Mr Ryan said he heard screaming,wood breaking and plates smashing and walked closer to the home to investigate before the same woman he had seen earlier walked back across the park holding what appeared to be a white towel.

It is alleged this person was Ms Papanicolaou and the white cloth contained a bloodied knife and the cordless handset of Mrs Welsh’s home phone.

Crown prosecutor Christopher Taylor previously told the jury that Ms Papanicolaou was not expected at the home that day,with Mrs Welsh still wearing rollers in her hair when the younger woman jumped the back fence and walked in.

She allegedly attacked Mrs Welsh with her own wooden walking sticks,breaking two of them,and hit her with decorative crockery before grabbing a kitchen knife and stabbing the older woman about six times.

Mrs Welsh spoke to police later that day as she was being wheeled in to surgery,telling an officer she had been beaten by “Hanny the housekeeper” in an attack that went “on and on,she aimed mostly for my head”.

“She was beating me with the stick every which way and I’m saying ‘why,Hanny,why’,” Mrs Welsh said. “She was utterly ferocious. I was on the floor most of the time just trying to cover up. It seemed to go on forever – then I remembered that I had the alarm around my neck.”

Ms Papanicolaou told police that Mrs Welsh attacked first,including wielding the knife,after accusing her of stealing $50. She said there was a mutual struggle during which the crockery must have fallen onto the older woman’s head.

The trial continues.

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Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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