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Bondi Junction stabbing survivor reunited with man who saved her

Written by on May 9, 2024

Bondi Westfield attack survivor Liya Barko has held an emotional reunion with the unsung hero who saved her life in the terrible moments after a killer plunged a knife into both of her kidneys.

Wayne Tolver-Banks and his wife Michi, who came to her rescue at the Westfield shopping centre, were strangers she had never met.

But Ms Barko has revealed she now regards the couple as real-life “superheroes”, after Mr Tolver-Banks calmly took control of the scene before his wife made Ms Barko promise not to die.

“I am so happy to see you alive. It is so good,” Mr Tolver-Banks said in the interview broadcast on Nine News.

Ms Barko thanked him for saving her life.

“Thank you for living,” he replied.

She said that Mr Tolver-Banks’ wife, Michi made her promise “not to let go”.

She then shook Ms Barko at one point to keep her conscious as police and paramedics made their way to the shopping centre.

In a chilling memory of the attacks, Ms Barko said she saw Mr Tolver-Banks calming a shopper who was screaming.

“If you scream, he knows where you are … he can find you,” he calmly told the distressed woman.

Ms Barko, who was born in Ukraine and is a cleaner, said she crossed paths with the killer on the afternoon of April 13 after popping into the shops after a volleyball class.

“He just looked at me and he decided in that moment, and then I look at my hand, and I was bleeding,” the 35-year-old told 9News, adding it all happened so fast she didn’t even see the 30cm knife Cauchi was carrying.

The man then looked straight into Ms Barko’s eyes as she was bleeding and said “catch you”.

It was at that moment that a man in a green T-shirt she had never met rushed to her side and pulled her into a store and began working to save her life.

“When you are on the floor, you’re bleeding, you can see everyone’s expression and some of them were crying, they were scared for their lives also,” she said.

Speaking to 9News, she said she woke up several days later in hospital to find a beaming doctor standing over her.

“He was so happy, I have never seen someone really so happy,” she said.

“I thought okay, if I die right now, I’ll just destroy his shift. So I can’t die right now because he’s just so happy.”

Ms Barko and the man who saved her life were reunited on Wednesday after Channel Nine’s Damien Ryan interviewed Ms Barko and she revealed she desperately wanted to say thank you to the tall man in a green T-shirt who saved her life.

Mr Tolver-Banks revealed his military training kicked into action as he comforted Ms Barko and terrified shoppers.

“It was tough, you could say I wasn’t ready for it, but I looked at you,” he told Ms Barko, “and when I saw the man stab you, I said I have to help you because I didn’t want you to die.”

An emotional Ms Barko said everything seemed to happen in seconds and she was so grateful he was there in that moment.

“You were my angel appearing in the right place at the right time,” she said.

“That was one of the reasons I stayed calm.”

“All these movies with superheroes. After this situation, these are the superheroes we really need on our side,” she said.

“The people who can be with you when you suffer, taking care of you.”

Ms Barko is on a short-term student visa, but her friends hope the federal government will give permanent residency after her ordeal.