‘I was slipping in my own blood’: Victim recounts unsolved Oak Bay machete attack
VICTORIA -- It was a shockingly brutal home invasion that sent one Victoria-area woman to hospital with severe knife wounds and prompted police to warn the community to lock their doors while at home.
An unknown intruder broke into the beachfront home where Nermeen Alireza, 45, was staying alone. She was violently attacked with what police described as likely a machete.
The ensuing manhunt triggered lockdowns at nearby schools.
Now, three years later, Oak Bay police appear no closer to solving the crime. But Alireza is telling her story for the first time.
"It was just a very normal day, it was about seven o'clock in the morning," Alireza told CTV News Vancouver Island on Thursday, more than three years since the April 25, 2017 attack.
Alireza was housesitting her parents' home in the 2500-block of Esplanade near Willows Beach, while her father sought treatment for cancer in Vancouver.
"I made my coffee, went back into my room and as I was reading, I heard a lot of noise coming from the kitchen, like drawers being opened and closed and things being just kind of rummaged through," she said. "I thought, 'That's very strange.'"
Alireza got up from her room and headed into the dining room.
"As I was turning the corner, I see this man standing there," she said. "The look in his eyes, he was very angry."
The intruder she described was a white man in his 20s, wearing a brown jacket, khaki pants and a bandana over his face, "like in the old Western movies."
Alireza said in that moment she had a classic fight-or-flight response.
"Unfortunately, I chose to confront, I don't know why," she said. "I felt more angry than scared because I didn’t understand what was going on."
Alireza tried to push the man away. "I just felt this very heavy thud land on my head – didn’t recognize what it was – and then a few seconds later I slipped and fell and when I looked down I realized I was slipping in my own blood."
The attacker delivered several more blows to Alireza's upper body before she realized he was slashing her with a large knife.
"He shouted at me, 'Let go,' because I was so silly, I was still holding onto [him]," she said.
She let go and he ran out of the home. "I could see that two of my fingers were cut off and on my left arm I could see the bone… I've never seen anything that white in my life."
Alireza says she then crawled into the kitchen to reach the telephone, which she knocked off the counter and dialled 911 with "the other fingers that I had."
'I've forgiven him'
Alireza was rushed to hospital where she received several stitches and staples in her head, steel plates in her arm, and was treated for a dislocated shoulder. She had three fingers reattached, followed by a year of physiotherapy to get her hand movements back.
Alireza said that while she hasn't heard any updates on the case from police recently, she's not asking for them either.
"They haven't told me a lot," she said. "But I don't really want to know. I've forgiven him, this person. Unfortunately, I can't forget."
She said that beyond preventing the perpetrator from carrying out such an attack again, she wants no restitution for the crime on her behalf. "I have no ill feelings towards him at all."
Despite her compassion, the woman admits the attack left some psychological scars. "I was afraid of everyone. And I would never, ever consider living in a house again," she said, adding that she has since left the Victoria area.
"I've tried to distance myself as much as possible and use my own coping mechanisms."
The Oak Bay Police Department says the investigation – now in its 38th month – is ongoing.
"This is still an active investigation and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment at this time," said Oak Bay police spokesperson Ray Bernoties on Thursday.
Alireza said she is "surprised and slightly disappointed" that the attacker hasn't been caught, but said "I know that things don't happen like they do in the movies.”
In June 2017, investigators said they don’t believe the woman was targeted in the attack, but said they believe people with information about it had yet to come forward.
The Oak Bay Police Department and the Saanich Police Department continue to investigate.
"Anyone in my shoes would have had to let it go because it will destroy you," she said. "He basically left me for dead."
Anyone with information about the crime can contact local police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.