Mechanic Nick Gilio was praised for restraining a knife-wielding Anthony Sampieri, the man who bound and raped a seven-year-old inside the toilets of a Kogarah dance studio.
Sampieri, 56, was sentenced to life in jail for the horrific crime today at the Downing Centre District Court.
Outside court, Mr Gilio broke down in tears as he delivered a powerful message for the “little dancer” who was the victim in the sickening attack.
“It was an absolute honour to have freed you from the hands of evil,” he said. “I don’t regret a single second.
“Today is your day for justice. Your day toward light and healing. My wish for you is that you grow to be a healthy, confident, strong and grounded young woman who is caring and compassionate towards others.
“Do not let this scar you. Do not let this evil break who you are. As for me, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of you. You are there for eternity and although I won’t be there in presence, I will always send my love for you in spirit.
“You are now forever locked in my heart. You are my hero and you always will be. And, if we cross paths again, please know that it was only yesterday I thought of you.”
Applause broke out after Mr Gilio’s moving words, with almost everyone who had heard it left in tears.
Dentist Jeffrey Stack, 59, who also helped restrain Sampieri after the sickening attack, thanked Judge Conlon for giving Sampieri an “unprecedented” sentence for a crime of this nature, which he hoped would act as a deterrent.
Sampieri has liver cancer and will likely die within the next five years, with Mr Stack referring to his illness outside court, saying: “Mother nature will sort him out before his term ends”.
HOW HEROES SAVED YOUNG GIRL
The nightmare ordeal occurred on November 15, 2018, after the seven-year-old girl finished her dance class and entered the dance hall female toilets.
Sampieri, who was already inside the toilets, grabbed the girl when she entered and punched her in the face as she tried to resist.
He tied a black cord around her neck and hauled her into the male toilets where he proceed to sexually assault her.
The 56-year-old produced a large knife and threatened to “cut her neck off” if the girl made any noise.
At around 7.30pm the girl’s mother and dentist Mr Stack started looking for the child. They entered the male toilets and knocked on the door of the cubical Sampieri was in but only received a muffled reply.
Mr Stack returned to his office and Mr Gilio offered to help the mum continue her search when Sampieri walked out into the corridor.
When asked if he had seen the girl Sampieri said “no” and followed the pair back into the male toilets.
When they saw the girl her rapist made a dash for the door but Mr Gilio immediately grabbed him, rammed his head into the wall and said, “Is this what you do … Is this what you f***ing do?”
Sampieri then produced the knife he had used to threaten the girl and attacked Mr Gilio, slashing his stomach.
Despite the injury, Mr Gilio wrapped his arm around the rapists head, causing them both to fall to the ground.
As they fell Sampieri cut the man’s wrist and the back of his neck, leaving a 14cm gash.
By this point Mr Stack had heard the commotion and was trying to get into the bathroom.
He eventually opened the door and punched Sampieri in the face until he went limp.
Police arrived at 7.56pm to find Sampieri naked from the waist down, covered in blood and unresponsive.
In court today Judge Conlon praised Mr Gilio for his brave actions that night.
“Only due to your selfless intervention, the victim, her family, the dance school and community are indebted to you, for the courage you displayed in detaining the offender,” he said.
The judge described the attack as “any parent’s worst nightmare” as he handed down the life sentence with no non-parole period.
“The offender demonstrated a callous disregard for the child,” he said. Judge Conlon added that Sampieri subjected the young girl to sexual abuse of the “most horrifying and degrading kind”.
Sampieri had admitted he said he was in such a state of sexual excitement by the time he was in the dance studio facility, he would have attacked anyone who had walked in.
“Using crystal meth, I believe that led me to what I did,” Sampieri told a sentence hearing last week.
The 56-year-old pleaded guilty to 10 charges related to the attack including three counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10. In addition to the rape charges, he also pleaded guilty to making 94 lewd phone calls to victims aged 18-82 between August and November 2018.