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Winnipeg doctor acted on ‘pure instinct’ when he saved woman from knife-wielding attacker

Winnipeg doctor acted on ‘pure instinct’ when he saved woman from knife-wielding attacker

A Winnipeg doctor says he didn’t have time to think when he ran at and tackled a man who had just stabbed a woman inside Seven Oaks General Hospital on Wednesday.

Both the attacker and the victim have been identified as employees at the northwest Winnipeg hospital.

Dr. Ken Hahlweg says he was walking toward the waiting room at Seven Oaks when he heard what he described as an “unworldy” scream.

“It didn’t even sound human at the time,” said Hahlweg, the site’s medical lead at Northern Connection Medical Centre, a clinic with a location at Seven Oaks.

Hahlweg could see a cluster of people struggling near the information desk inside the hospital’s atrium. Two people fled and Hahlweg saw a man holding what looked like a kitchen knife, roughly 20 centimetres long.

A woman who had been part of the cluster fell to the ground. The man approached her and placed the knife across her neck, Hahlweg said.

Police say the stabbing at Seven Oaks appears to be linked to two homicides discovered that day. (Darin Morash/CBC)

“It was clear that he was intending on killing her,” he said.

Hahlweg put his head down, ran straight at the man and knocked him off the woman.

“It was just nothing to really think about,” he said. “It was total, pure instinct, seeing a situation where there was imminent danger and harm that was going to be inflicted on this woman.”

As the attack unfolded, a staff member called for help over the intercom. The intercom was accidentally left open, broadcasting the sounds of the assault throughout the hospital.

Expecting to feel a knife in his back, Hahlweg fell to the floor and the man stumbled against the desk, still holding the knife. When the man turned and started running, Hahlweg chased after, following the man outside. Police arrived on the scene and arrested him.

Back inside the hospital, the woman who had been attacked was bleeding from wounds to her neck and abdomen, Hahlweg said.

She underwent surgery and was in critical but stable condition as of Thursday, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority president and CEO Mike Nader said. She was working at the hospital when the attack occurred, he said.

Nader confirmed the man arrested in connection with the attack was also a hospital employee, but was not on shift at the time. 

Police believe stabbing, 2 homicides related

Winnipeg police and RCMP have said they believe the man arrested is also connected with two homicides discovered the same day.

Police found the body of a 73-year-old woman around 12:40 p.m. CT Wednesday at a home in New Bothwell, a small community about 40 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

Neighbours told CBC News the home belonged to Judy Swain, whom they described as a hard-working and incredibly kind person with a bubbly nature. Swain began farming there about 10 years ago, raising chickens and pigs.

“She had the energy of a much younger person,” said Kristie Beynon, executive director of Direct Farm Manitoba. Swain was a member of the organization’s board of directors. 

A house on Winnipeg’s Toronto Street was still cordoned off with yellow police tape on Thursday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

“She really grounded our board. She was a great member, very energetic, cared for everybody,” said Beynon.

Following the discovery of that homicide, a man known to the victim was identified as a suspect, police said Thursday.

Around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, police determined the man might have been in the area of Leila Avenue and McPhillips Street in Winnipeg, which is the location of Seven Oaks hospital.

Officers were on their way there when they got a report of the stabbing at the hospital. 

Later that evening, RCMP went to the 300 block of Toronto Street in Winnipeg’s West End as part of their investigation into the New Bothwell homicide. They found the body of a man in his 70s, who is also believed to be the victim of a homicide.

A house on that block, near St. Matthews Avenue, was still cordoned off with yellow police tape on Thursday. 

A neighbour who spoke to CBC News said a man named Stuart Farley lived there. Farley and Swain divorced in 2008, according to court records.

Farley’s neighbour, who declined to give his full name, said he had known Farley for five years and described him as a nice guy.

Winnipeg police and RCMP are investigating all three cases and believe they may be related.

They have not released the name of the arrested man and no charges have been announced.

Police have also not released any details about the relationship between the man arrested and the victims, or about the connection between the homicides and the stabbing at Seven Oaks.

The day after the stabbing at the hospital, Hahlweg returned to work.

Despite the danger of the situation, Hahlweg said it was his training as a physician and 27 years of experience working in high-pressure environments like emergency rooms that enabled him to act when others might have frozen.

“People should not feel, you know, guilty or anything like that … because that’s a normal response,” he said.

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