Bondi Junction stabbing survivor's emotional reunion with mystery hero: 'So happy you're alive'

Liya Barko met with former solider Wayne Tolver Banks to thank him for rushing to save her during the violent rampage.

Bondi Junction stabbing survivor's Liya Barko hugging former solider Wayne Tolver Banks during their reunion on Wednesday.
Liya Barko was reunited with former solider Wayne Tolver Banks, who helped save her life during the Bondi Junction stabbing rampage, on Wednesday. Source: 9News

A woman who nearly died in the stabbing attack at Bondi Junction Westfield last month has thanked the stranger in a green T-shirt who pulled her to safety in an emotional reunion.

Liya Barko fatefully crossed paths with killer Joel Cauchi on the afternoon of April 13 after popping into the shops following her first volleyball class. The 35-year-old student from Argentina said their eyes met briefly before he plunged the 30cm knife into her side and uttered the words “catch you”.

Bondi Junction stabbing survivor Liya Barko after being released from hospital (left). Liya Barko in hospital (right).
Bondi Junction stabbing survivor Liya Barko was severely injured in the attack and was only released from hospital a week ago. Source: 9News

Speaking to 9News earlier this week, Barko said as Cauchi fled to continue his rampage, ultimately killing six people, another shopper — a tall man in a bright T-shirt — rushed over, pulled her into a store and began working to save her life.

“I would like to see him again, at least give him a hug,” she said of her mystery hero. On Wednesday, she finally got to do just that.

The man, identified by 9News as former solider Wayne Tolver Banks, and Barko couldn’t help but contain their excitement during their embrace, which was filmed by the publication.

“Oh my god,” Barko exclaimed as she first saw Banks, who asked her how she was doing.

“Good! Good! Yes I remember you, you were so tall,” she responded.

“I’m so happy you’re alive,” a clearly relieved Banks said as they grasped each other’s hands.

Banks recalled that during the rampage, mass murderer Cauchi looked him in the eye and shook his head, implying he wasn’t going to attack the man, before bolting toward Barko and stabbing her in the ribs — piercing her stomach and liver.

“I looked at you when I saw the man stab you and I said straight away to myself I’ve got to help you...I didn’t want you to die," Banks told Barko.

A person looks at floral tributes left at the entrance to Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre after the attack.
Cauchi murdered six people in the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre, including five women and a male security guard. Source: AAP

“I knew exactly what I needed to do to take control of the situation and the area and look after [her],” the former soldier continued, crediting his previous training for his quick response.

The pair, Banks’s wife and other shoppers then took refuge in a store, where the 35-year-old student said she believed she was going to die.

“Your wife she was the person who started to shake me when I started to say ‘I want to give up’…she is the one who [said to me] ‘You are doing really well’,” Barko said, describing her now life-long friend as her “angel”.

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