'I'm not lucky, I'm blessed: Officer speaks out after being shot in neck

Barry McMurtrie with his daughter, Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie. Picture: Robert Peet
Barry McMurtrie with his daughter, Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie. Picture: Robert Peet

Lying on the ground outside a suburban home in Glen Innes, a gunshot wound to her neck and unsure if she was going to live or die, Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie's first thoughts were of her fellow police officers and her family.

It says a lot about her selfless character. It also says a lot about her faith - not that she realised it then.

Snr Cst McMurtrie was attending a domestic dispute with two other officers, one a probationary constable just four weeks into the job, when she and Sergeant Mark Johnson were shot.

Left: Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie on the job in Glen Innes. Right: Sergeant Mark Johnson was also wounded in the shooting. Photos: Glen Innes Examiner

Left: Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie on the job in Glen Innes. Right: Sergeant Mark Johnson was also wounded in the shooting. Photos: Glen Innes Examiner

A fragment of the bullet hit Sgt Johnson in the cheek, while the rest of the projectile embedded in Snr Cst McMurtrie's neck. 

Both have made remarkable recoveries, although Snr Cst McMurtrie doubts she will ever be able return to normal duties.

Speaking at Fairy Meadow's Northern Beaches Church of Christ on Sunday, where her father Barry is the pastor, Snr Cst McMurtrie admitted she was low on faith at the time, care of a rough few years watching her mother slowly succumb to dementia.

Reverend Jay Basic interviews shooting survivor Helen McMurtrie at Northern Beaches Church of Christ in Fairy Meadow on Sunday.

Reverend Jay Basic interviews shooting survivor Helen McMurtrie at Northern Beaches Church of Christ in Fairy Meadow on Sunday.

However, she knew her faith returned, stronger than ever, when she woke up in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery.

"I'm not lucky to be here, I'm blessed," she said.  "God walked me through that."

Still, Snr Cst McMurtrie admitted she did think she might not live to see her family again, prompting her to ensure her fellow officers had a final message for her husband and children if the worst was to happen.

I have no animosity towards him….he wasn't in the right frame of mind," she said, although she is sad about what his actions have meant for her.

"I remember making Sam [Prob Cst Samantha Perry] and Mark listen to me because I thought I mightn't see [my family] again," she said.

Another testament to Snr Cst McMurtrie's strength of character is how she has come to forgive Eric Newman, the man who almost killed her before taking his own life.

"I have no animosity towards him….he wasn't in the right frame of mind," she said, although she is sad about what his actions have meant for her.

"I wasn't ready to give up my job and he made that choice for me [through his actions]. I don't think I will ever be able to be fully operational again."

Despite her ordeal, Snr Cst McMurtrie still maintains nothing beats being a cop.

"I always wanted to do it for as long as I can remember," she said. "It's the best job in the world."