As killer menaced, women mustered courage

It is a bittersweet occasion when Selina Bello and Peggy Alexander-Kew meet in the sunshine on the South Perth foreshore.

The two women are together for the first time since attending court hearings last year about the horrific crime that changed their lives for ever.

Monday, June 24, 2013, had begun in a pleasant, if ordinary, way.

Ms Bello was working in the hair salon she had run with her mother Angela Ferullo for the past six years.

Mrs Alexander-Kew, who lived near the Como salon and had been a client for four years, had come in to have her hair done.

The grandmother of 10 enjoyed her regular trips to the salon and friendly chats with Ms Ferullo and Ms Bello, even more so after the recent death of her only daughter in a car crash.

"The day started out so well," Mrs Alexander-Kew says to Ms Bello. "We were joking and laughing." Ms Bello, smiling, agrees: "It did. We didn't see it coming, that's for sure."

"It" was James Bill Payet, Ms Ferullo's former husband and the man Ms Bello, now 25, called Dad.

About 10.30am, Payet, armed with two hunting knives, burst into the South Terrace salon on a murderous hunt for Ms Ferullo.

Over the next few minutes, Payet fatally stabbed Ms Ferullo and wounded Ms Bello, who was five months pregnant, and Mrs Alexander-Kew, now 69.

Despite their fear, the three women fought Payet, who had a history of drug abuse, violence and mental illness.

As part of the Australian Bravery Awards, Ms Ferullo will today be posthumously awarded the nation's second-highest bravery award, the Star of Courage, for rescuing Ms Bello. It cost the 43-year-old mother-of-three her life.

Mrs Alexander-Kew will be awarded the Bravery Medal for trying to stop Payet from attacking Ms Ferullo and Ms Bello.

Ms Bello, now 25 and mother to 17-month-old Emilio, will accept the award for her late mother. "I can't describe how proud of her I am," she said.

"I wish she was here to get it herself."

She said she was "so happy" Mrs Alexander-Kew was also recognised for her bravery.

As Emilio plays happily with his paternal grandmother a few metres away, Ms Bello and Mrs Alexander-Kew talk about the brave acts of that day and life almost two years on.

Mrs Alexander-Kew recalls sitting in a salon chair, reading a magazine and not even looking up when Payet walked in.

He demanded to know from Ms Bello where Ms Ferullo, who was in the back room of the salon, was.

When Ms Bello denied her mother was at the salon, Payet picked her up by the throat and threw her to the ground.

The other client at the time, a man, ran out while Mrs Alexander-Kew began berating Payet. "I said, 'What the hell are you doing?' I didn't realise he had a knife. He said to me, 'Stay out of it. It's none of your business'," she recounts.

"I said, 'You've made it my business. You don't come in here and start fighting.

"I didn't realise he'd stabbed Selina at that stage."

Hearing her daughter cry out, Ms Ferullo ran out from the back of the salon and threw herself over her injured daughter.

Mrs Alexander-Kew believes Payet would have killed Ms Bello if her mother had not protected her.

"I saw him lift the knife and I saw the size of it and I thought my God, he's really going to kill them," she says. "I lifted up the hairdressing chair, how I don't know because I've got such a bad back, but it's amazing what you can do."

She brought the chair down on Payet's head. He turned on her, punching her in the head and stabbing her in the chest and back.

Ms Bello grabbed a metal footstool to try to stop Payet from stabbing her mother.

"You were saying all the time 'Don't hurt Mum', 'You're hurting Mum', 'The baby, Dad, don't hurt the baby'," Mrs Alexander-Kew said.

"I could see Selina was badly hurt and I could see Angie was very badly hurt," she says. "I just said to him, 'I'm begging of you, go, go, you've done enough damage'."

After Payet left, Mrs Alexander-Kew locked the front door and dialled triple-0.

In May, Payet was jailed for life, with a minimum of 25 years, for murdering Ms Ferullo, grievously wounding Ms Bello and assault.

Ms Bello went back to work at the salon on crutches a month after the attack but sold the business in November to work from home. "I think if I'd walked away straight away, it would have lingered with me," she said. "I walked away with my head held high knowing that he didn't push me out."

Ms Bello says she welcomes proposed changes to violence restraining orders in WA announced this month to remove the onus on victims to prove abuse, and to mandate jail terms for multiple breaches.

As they part ways, the women embrace. Ms Bello says she will always be thankful to Mrs Alexander-Kew and to her mother for "the most selfless act of courage ever".

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