A Perth man has been charged for a horrific alleged assault on a wildlife photographer, at the Lesmurdie Falls carpark located in the hills east of Perth.
Award-winning bird and wildlife photographer, Heather Thorning, was visiting the falls at around 6:30am on September 12, when a man pulled up in a car and randomly attacked her with a metal baseball bat. The 59-year old photographer was assaulted for around three minutes, and thought she was going to die.
‘It was so hard that I actually heard it, the metal hitting my bone and bouncing off,’ she said. ‘I thought I was going to get killed. The thoughts on my mind were “he’s out to kill me”.’
Heather suffered a broken arm, among other injuries, and has months of recovery ahead.
The 29-year old man faced Midland Magistrates Court charged with intent to harm and causing bodily harm. He was apparently exercising in the bush when he returned to his car and saw the photographer.
He approached her, yelling ‘who do you think you are?’ before striking Heather, who was carrying $20,000 worth of gear. The man was previously charged for assaulting his mother in 2017 with a steel mallet. He told court he has used methamphetamine, but claims to not have been under the influence at Lesmurdie Falls.
Police said the man showed signs of paranoia and little remorse for his alleged attack. He requested bail in order to continue treatment at a mental health clinic, but the magistrate refused.
Heather is a self-taught and passionate bird photographer, who operates bird watching and photography workshops. The random nature of the brutal attack is behaviour that’s characteristic of a severely unwell, potentially drug-affected, individual.
It’s reasonable to speculate that, in a twisted sense of reason, Heather’s camera gear may have partly caused the man to lash out. There were others in the area camping, who didn’t attract the same unhinged behaviour.
It seems that some people feel threatened or uncomfortable by photographers, particularly if they believe their privacy has been invaded. While violent or even aggressive behaviour is rarely reported, many photographers have experienced uncomfortable incidents where they have been questioned or verbally abused while carrying expensive looking gear.
But this is an extremely frightening, entirely unprovoked violent act. One hopes the traumatic experience doesn’t stop Heather from doing what she loves.