Published: 00:01, 07 February 2019
A pensioner has spoken of the moment she thought would die as a thug rained down hammer blows on her head.
Michelle O'Donnell, 72, suffered horrific skull and facial injuries which needed five hours of surgery following the vicious assault by body builder Perry Redmond.
He even kissed the bloodied hammer and told her "I might as well be done for murder" as she lay helpless on the ground.
The 50-year-old labourer has now been convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 22 years.
But his victim says the mental and physical scars will remain with her forever.
Former professional singer Ms O'Donnell is still recovering from the brutal attack which took place 10 months ago at her home in Dargate Road, Yorkletts.
It was sparked after Redmond, who she knew because he had done work at her house, asked to borrow money.
"I thought he was a nice guy and even let him stay here while he was working for me because he was sleeping in a campervan, " she said. But he turned nasty after asking to borrow cash.
"I told him I didn't have any on me, which I didn't, and he went off but returned in a very aggressive state and just went berserk," said divorcee Ms O'Donnell.
"He got into the house and first hit me around the head with a heavy frying pan before leaving.
"But then soon returned and forced his way back in armed with a hammer and dragged me around by my hair while hitting me.
'He ordered me to beg for my life and I remember thinking that this is the moment I was going to die...' - Michelle O'Donnell
I am only 5ft 1ins and he's 6ft 3ins and a body builder and must be at least 16 stone so I had no chance of fighting him off.
"He ordered me to beg for my life and I remember thinking that this is the moment I was going to die. I managed to get out into the road, hoping that a passing car would stop but I think it was neighbours who called the police."
When officers arrived, Redmond from Boughton-under-Blean who mostly lived in a campervan, was still in the street and told them "I put my hands up, I done it".
The court heard that he told officers: “I nearly killed her, I don’t regret what I have done. I know I’ve hit an old lady.”
But he later claimed he regretted it, saying he had been drinking all day and was in a “ bit of a rage” and a "red mist" had descended on him.
After his arrest at the scene, Ms O'Donnell was airlifted to Kings College Hospital in London where she was treated for skull fractures, two broken ribs, and collar bone and severe facial injuries, including smashed teeth, and hand and arm wounds.
Redmond denied attempted murder but was convicted following a trial at Canterbury Crown Court.
Ms O'Donnell has now praised the police for their diligence and support and the doctors who saved her life.
She says her friends and family have also been her rock, including her twin sister Francine who she used to sing with in a duo called the Downie Twins.
"Everyone has been wonderful and I couldn't have got through it without them," she said
The twins used to live in Canterbury as teenagers before moving to the Yorkletts area.
Ms O'Donnell welcomed the long sentence handed down to Redmond, adding: "He's clearly a very dangerous individual who needs to be locked up."
Ironically, on the week of the attack, she had just been given the all clear from bowel cancer.
"I should have been celebrating but then this happened to me," she said
She still suffers panic attacks and flashbacks to the ordeal which causes her loss of sleep.
"I don't think I'll ever get over it and it has just made me more edgy and much less trusting of people, which is sad."
Judge Heather Norton ruled that after his release, Redmond should serve a further five years on licence, adding that he posed a “significant risk of serious harm” to others.
Speaking after case, senior investigating officer Det Insp Chris Greenstreet said: "This was one of the most savage attacks I have come across in my time as a police officer and it is a miracle the victim survived.
"The impact on her cannot be understated and it has affected her terribly. But I hope the outcome of the investigation brings her some small comfort."