Rusty Collins, GM - Mother saves daughter from crazed axeman

More than 50 years ago, as a murderous Fijian axeman stood in her children's bedroom, Rusty Collins threw herself in the way of the blade to protect them.

More than 50 years ago, as a murderous Fijian axeman stood in her children's bedroom, Rusty Collins threw herself in the way of the blade to protect them.

As he ran off, the mother of four was left with terrible scars.

Now, after her peaceful death at her home at Aylsham, her Norfolk family has recounted the act of heroism that earned their mum a George Medal and saved the life of her youngest daughter.

Born in India in 1919, Rusty, real name Edith, moved to England when she was 18 to train as a nurse.


You may also want to watch:


She spent the second world war caring for servicemen in north Africa and Italy.

In peacetime, she moved to New Zealand, before settling on the pacific island of Fiji, where she met and married David Collins. Together they had four children.

Most Read

But, in 1957, her husband died during a hurricane, and just months later Rusty put her own life in jeopardy for the sake of her family.

Although youngest child Nigel was only three months old, his three sisters can vividly remember the night an axeman, the husband of their servant, Akanasi, came to their home at Suva Point and attacked his wife.

Second-eldest daughter Debby Kemp, a mother of four who lives at Wroxham, recalled: "The houses were on stilts. He used the axe on the wood to lever himself up to come in through the children's window."

On entering the room, he went to the sofa where his wife was sleeping and swung the axe at her head, killing her. Bridget Collins, who was four at the time, stood beside him, begging him to stop.

As her mother grappled with the man and the axe, he turned on the little girl. Ms Collins, now 57, said: "He was going to bring it down on my head to get me out of the way.

"My mother realised what was happening and pushed me out of the way. The axe came down on her three times, on her arm and her back."

Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Canada to get away from the terrible memories.

Ms Collins explained: "I had a bad reaction: every time I saw a Fijian man I would scream. We had to go somewhere else."

It was while living in North America that Rusty was awarded the George Medal by the Queen, at a ceremony in Ottawa, for her bravery.

At the time, newspapers in England and Canada reported the story, but Rusty only ever spoke about it when asked by her children.

Her eldest daughter, Loma Holmes, who lives in Norwich, said: "She didn't dwell upon it: it was factual.

"She would have liked to have forgotten it. She thought anyone would have done that in that situation."

Yet it was not the first time Rusty had been called upon to be brave. As she travelled to north Africa during the war, her ship was torpedoed; another time an ambulance train on which she was travelling was bombed.

Mr Collins, 53, said: "Most people ran away, but she and a couple of others stayed on the train with the troops. She was brave then, too."

The family lived in Canada for six months before coming to England, originally settling in Essex before moving first to Acle and later Wroxham.

Rusty worked as a district nurse in Norwich for 10 years before retiring.

Her children said that throughout her life she was a wonderful cook and prolific reader who knew anything and everything.

Mrs Kemp said: "She was well liked, well loved, good value and great fun."

In January, at 90, Rusty suffered a stroke. Despite recovering well, she died peacefully at the home she shared with her son and younger daughter at Aylsham on Feb-

ruary 24. Apart from her children, she leaves five grandchildren and a

great-granddaughter

who was born in December.

Her funeral takes place on Thursday at 11.30am at St John's Roman Catholic Church, Aylsham, followed by interment in Aylsham cemetery.

comment - Page 12

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter