A father-of-three who faced a possible jail time after intervening when a burglar attacked his female neighbour has shared the hell he endured while battling to clear his name.
Melbourne man Russell Harrison was hailed a hero after launching into action to save his neighbour, who was being choked by drug-user and ex-prisoner Adam Slomczewski.
However, his bravery almost cost him his life – and his family – as he then faced a two-year legal ordeal over Slomczewski’s death.
Russell Harrison’s (pictured with wife Karen) heroic actions almost cost him his family after enduring a two-year legal battle after the home intruder died
Mr Harrison and his wife Karen came to close to divorcing during the two-year legal ordeal.
His security business began to struggle as a result of the case and Mr Harrison was forced to go on CentreLink.
‘I almost lost my entire family,’ he told Sunday Night.
However, despite the tumultuous two years, Mr Harrison said he had no regrets and said he wouldn’t hesitate to act if the same situation arose again.
‘I would have no second doubts, if I ran across that same situation today, I would do it again if I had to,’ he said.
Mr Harrison, a former US military non-commissioned officer, went running when he heard the ‘blood curdling’ screams from his neighbours home on December 11, 2015.
‘They weren’t: ”Ah, I’m hurt.” They were blood-curdling screams. It was a true scream that somebody was in trouble,’ Mr Harrison said.
As he entered the home he found the young mother being choked by a home invader.
‘It took her a minute to realise that it was me. As soon as she did she screamed, ”Russell, help!” So I threw the door open, I said: ”What are you doing?” He let go and took off running through the house.’
Melbourne man Russell Harrison (pictured) was hailed a hero after launching into action to save his neighbour who was being choked by drug-user and ex-prisoner Adam Slomczewski
Ice user Adam Slomczewski (pictured) died during a struggle after he broke into a woman’s Melbourne home
Mr Harrison and Slomczewski wrestled before Mr Harrison was able to put Slomczewski into a headlock.
then appeared to pass out before police arrived.
However, when police did arrive, they found the 44-year-old was unresponsive.
‘When the police came in, the first thing they did was check him,’ Mr Harrison said.
‘The police said: ”This guy’s not breathing.” I flipped him over and I started CPR. I continued CPR until the police had gotten their gloves on. Then they took me away and they took over until the paramedics got there.’
Slomczewski couldn’t be revived.
Mr Harrison told police at the time he had not intended to harm Slomczewski but wanted to stop him from fleeing, Adelaide Now reported.
In November 2017 he was cleared over the death of the burglar.
The state coroner found Mr Slomczewski died from ‘cardiac arrhythmia in the setting of struggle, neck compression and amphetamine use’.
Ben Rhodes claimed he has been serving a life sentence after he had his leg blown off during break-in at a remote property at Teralba, New South Wales, in 2016
Mr Harrison, who is from the US, believes homeowners should have a right to defend themselves when someone breaks in.
‘You need to be able to defend yourself, defend someone else and defend your property without the fear of prosecution,’ he said.
However, not everyone agrees.
Ben Rhodes claimed he has been serving a life sentence after he had his leg blown off during break-in at a remote property at Teralba, New South Wales, in 2016.
He and a friend had targeted the rural property for shotguns. However, he was caught by the owner.
The homeowner claimed the firearm had discharged accidentally during a struggle. But Rhodes claimed it had been intentional.
‘You can’t just shoot some one because he’s on your property. Not in Australia.’
Rhodes escaped jail time after a judge found he had endured a ‘considerable extra-curial punishment’ and lifelong injuries he suffered, The Newcastle Herald reported.
What are the rules when it comes to defending yourself against a home intruder?
In New South Wales a person can defend themselves inside their home, under the 2001 NSW Crimes Act.
However, an amendment made in the early 2000s means a homeowner can only use the trespassing defence if they had injured, not killed the intruder.
In Queensland a person can use ‘reasonable force’ to defend themselves, someone else or their property. However, they cannot cause grievous bodily harm.
South Australia and Western Australia have a specific law dealing with self-defence relating to home invasion.
In Western Australia a person is permitted to use force they deem ‘reasonably necessary’ to defend their property — as long as the person does not do grievous harm to that person.
In South Australia the law requires occupants who act in defence of themselves or another, or to protect property against an intruder, must believe on reasonable grounds that it is necessary to do so.