A police officer honoured with a bravery award says she will remain haunted by the night she earned it for the rest of her life.
Senior Constable Steph Bochorsky was off-duty and on a street in suburban Perth in 2015 when she heard a “blood-curdling scream” from a house.
She ran into the home, and was confronted with a horrific sight.
The scream had been let out by a mother whose three-year-old daughter had just been set on fire by her own father.
“A three-year-old in the cost, standing in the cot,” Sen Const Bochorsky told A Current Affair.
“Her whole head was (engulfed) in flames, probably like a metre above her head, and she wasn’t screaming, she wasn’t crying, she was just looking around frantically towards her father for help.”
Sen Const Bochorsky grabbed a blanket and smothered the flames, and then spotted the toddler’s eight-year-old sister cowering in the corner, where her drug-crazed father was dousing her in petrol as well.
She grabbed both children and rushed them out of the house.
“It’s almost like he was possessed,” Sen Const Bochorsky said.
“He was just staring at me blankly and staring blankly at his three-year-old little girl he’d just … you know, her whole head is burnt off at this stage.
The father, Edward Herbert, later told police he set fire to the toddler because she was “too f—— beautiful”.
It later emerged that Herbert was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol at the time.
He was convicted over the attack and jailed for 17 years.
Sen Const Bochorsky received the National Police Bravery Award at a special ceremony in Canberra for her actions, but she says she was just doing her job.
“Your instincts kick in and when there are innocent children involved, I guess you just don’t think about that,” she said.
“Your sole, or my sole purpose, was to get those kids to safety.”
Sen Const Bochorsky also praised the courage of the injured toddler.
“That’s the one thing that I remember, is just how brave she was,” she said.
“She wasn’t screaming, she wasn’t crying. The fact she put all her faith in me and didn’t know me, it was very gut-wrenching to see.”
The little girl’s recovering has been slow and painful.
She suffered third degree burns to her face and lost an ear.
“The way she looked at me that night with such horror in her face is something that will definitely stick with me,” Sen Const Bochorsky said.
While she was proud to be honoured with the award, she believes any officer would have done the same.
“I took an oath to serve and protect the community and if I wasn’t doing that – being in uniform or out of uniform – then I shouldn’t be a copper,” she said.
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