LynnMall attack: Survivor gives first on-camera interview detailing horrific day that changed her life

Warning: This story contains graphic details.

A survivor of the LynnMall knife attack in Auckland has given her first on-camera interview and detailed that horrific day in 2021 that ultimately changed her life.

It comes after a new multi-agency report revealed Police, prisons and spy agencies missed chances to direct the LynnMall attacker away from violent extremism.

Despite being under constant surveillance, Sri Lankan refugee Ahamed Samsudeen stabbed five people before being shot dead by police in September last year.

But he'd first come to the attention of police back in 2016 and was behind bars for four years, where the report said Corrections should have had a "disengagement programme". Instead, he was treated like any other remand prisoner.

Survivor Ezmeralda Johns told Newshub she hopes the outcomes of the report lead to change to help radicalised people and keep the community safe. 

Johns was stabbed eight times by the attacker and she wants people to know she's a survivor, not a victim. 

In Johns' first on-camera interview, she showed Newshub the evidence of the brutal attack. 

"From the chin, it goes to the back over the earlobe. I lost the earlobe as well. All the way back."

In the hours before the attack, her day had started out like any other. She went to the New Lynn Countdown with one ingredient on her mind.

"To buy tomatoes to make tacos. Like any other woman, when you're in a shopping centre, you walk through and think, 'Maybe there's something else'. That was it."

LynnMall attack: Survivor gives first on-camera interview detailing horrific day that changed her life
Photo credit: Newshub

As Johns walked down the back aisle, she unknowingly walked towards a terrorist.

"I turned around because I heard something. He was right by me. He stabbed me twice when I turned around."

Johns said she held her stomach where she had been stabbed and could feel it getting "bigger, bigger and bigger".

"Maybe it was just fats but later on I realised it was my bowels that were coming out of my side."

The attacker then left her and moved on to stab other shoppers. But he returned to Johns, who pretended to be dead. 

"I guess that didn't help because he came back on top of me and he stabbed me on the side, on the arm, he also cut me twice on both arms on the neck and face."

She said at that moment, while the attacker was on top of her, she thought: "Just don't cut my throat because obviously it would be over for me."

The attacker then ran off and members of the public quickly came to help Johns, who was rushed to Auckland City Hospital. 

Since then, she's undergone multiple surgeries. Her most recent was in August this year. 

"It's more reconstructive surgery that had to be done on my stomach."

Since the attack, Johns hasn't been able to return to her job as a preschool teacher full-time. The 30-year-old has also had to cope with mental scars.

"What I struggle with today is being in large crowds. I struggle with going to supermarkets. There have been multiple times I try to go alone and halfway through I say, 'I can't handle this', and just leave everything and go out."

Johns hopes the review of the attacker's management leads to change, believing there must be a better way to help radicalised people while also keeping the community safe. 

"If it is emotional support or help people [need] that are in those situations."

The survivor and her husband came to live in Aotearoa from South Africa for a better life nearly four years ago. Despite her journey, the couple wants to get citizenship. 

"Ultimately we still want to have children here and let them grow up in this beautiful country."

A country her parents are now visiting thanks to a Givealittle page. She hasn't seen them since 2019. 

Johns said she's a survivor, along with all those who were stabbed that day. 

"To my fellow survivors, you are stronger than you think. They need to remember they are survivors, not victims. We made it through this."

And she said thank you to the members of the public who helped everyone on that horrific day that changed lives forever.