To Mark McNicols “it wasn’t a big deal”. But the Lower Mountains resident’s selfless actions when confronted by armed men at a Sydney hardware shop in 2010 were recognised on Monday when he received an Australian Bravery Medal.
The 55-year-old retired police officer was shopping for fence palings at Bonnyrigg Bunnings about 10.30am on August 5, 2010 with a friend from Sydney, Rod Howard, when they heard a security guard yelling.
“Rod and I are both ex-coppers and we were down Liverpool way doing some handyman work and dropped into Bunnings on our way.
“The offenders put a gun in the security guard’s face, so you can imagine the fear he was going through.
“They headed towards the back and he hid in his office and I think rang Triple Zero.
“There were customers about just staring blankly — I think everyone was pretty confused.”
The offenders fled to an outside loading dock through a garage roll-a-door that was rapidly closing, forcing the retired police officers to make an instant choice.
“It was just instinct I think, but we decided to follow them,” Mr McNicol said.
“They fired two shots towards us. We took cover and saw them getting into two trucks and starting to drive off, so we got into our ute, rang Triple Zero and followed them down a side road, through an industrial area and parkland.
“The trucks stopped at a house about a suburb away and we updated that location via Triple Zero and then police cars arrived in large numbers and arrested the offenders.”
Mr Howard will also receive an Australian Bravery Medal.
Mr McNicol regards their actions as “a good citizen sort of thing to have done, nothing special”.
“What those guys did was just wrong and all Rod and I thought was ‘this needs to be stopped.’
“While we’ve been retired for about 10 years, we were taught what to do in situations like this and we made sure we had escape options at all times.
“If I was just on my own at the time, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Mr McNicol said he was glad the offenders, two men (43 and 34) and a 16-year-old boy, faced a string of firearm and assault charges in court.
“Anyone who brandishes a gun and lets shots go off is a very nasty type.”
For more information about the Australian Bravery Awards, visit www.itsanhonour.gov.au