Aramoana hero's bravery medal handed back to police

  • 02/03/2017
Helen Dickson with her medal (Police / Supplied)
Helen Dickson with her medal (Police / Supplied)

A rare bravery medal awarded to one of the heroes of New Zealand's worst fatal shooting has been returned to police. 

Helen Dickson, 72, was at home when she heard shots fired in the seaside town of Aramoana in 1990. She went to investigate what was happening and saw smoke billowing from the neighbour's house.

Following a long-running dispute, David Gray had shot and killed his neighbour Garry Holden. He then shot one of Mr Holden's daughters, who fled with a bullet lodged in her abdomen. Gray then set Mr Holden's house on fire.

Another local, Chris Cole, also heard the shots and was walking over to have a look when Gray appeared and began firing at him. Mr Cole was badly wounded.

Ms Dickson couldn't run for cover - her two artificial hips and recent arm surgery limited her movements. Despite that, she managed to make it to Mr Cole and helped him to the roadside, where they both collapsed.

Mr Cole was unable to move any further. He'd been badly injured in the back.

Crawling on her stomach, Ms Dickson made it 100 metres to a telephone booth, where she called emergency services.

She then crawled home and made further calls to police. She would continue to give services important updates throughout the night.

While Ms Dickson hid in her home, speaking to police, Gray would kill a total of 13 people. One of those was Ms Dickson's own son.

She was eventually rescued, but Mr Cole would later die of his wounds.

Gray was killed in a hail of police bullets.

For her bravery, Ms Dickson would become the first woman ever awarded the George Medal - the second-highest medal for bravery in New Zealand.

Ms Dickson died in 2007, leaving the medal in the hands of her family. Her son, Lindsay Dickson has now decided to donate the medal to the Police Museum collection.

Mr Dickson initially gave the medal to police in 2016, but he then borrowed it for a family reunion. 

Senior Constable Dalton and Sergeant Harris with Mr Dickson
Senior Constable Dalton and Sergeant Harris with Mr Dickson

Senior Constable Steve Dalton and Sergeant AJ Harris were among those present when the medal was returned to the museum. They were among the first police to check on Ms Dickson after the shooting, and said they were happy to share memories of "delightful and tough" Ms Dickson.