Socialite Shari-Lea Hitchcock was staggering home from a boozy lunch and clinging to the wrong side of a railing that separated pedestrians from the traffic when a good Samaritan on her way home from church intervened.
The one-time billionaire mistress’ descent from inebriation to ignominy from that point was swift.
Half an hour later, she was lying face-down and handcuffed on the footpath of one of the busiest roads in the eastern suburbs, horse-kicking at two police officers until she finally found a tooth-hold in one of their legs.
Ms Hitchcock, the long-term mistress of the late cardboard baron Dick Pratt, had been mistaken for a prostitute, rebuffed by a handsome police officer and would soon see the inside of a police cell.
She is now defending charges of common assault, assaulting an officer and resisting an officer in the execution of duty.
As she returned home from an evening service, Jan Haswell, 67, saw Ms Hitchcock teetering along Oxford Street in Woollahra, she told Waverley Local Court on Friday.
Images of her late ex-husband at the morgue flashed into her mind, she said.
“She kept on falling, kept on falling,” Ms Haswell said.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t leave her there or she might get hit by a car.’ “
Within seconds she had performed an illegal U-turn and parked her car, dismissing another woman who had stopped to help Ms Hitchcock in the meantime, with a promise to look after her.
Ms Haswell, who describes herself as a counsellor, has helped a person in distress every week over the past 40 years, she claimed.
Sometimes, she agreed under cross-examination, they did not want to be helped, so when Ms Hitchcock leaned towards her, Ms Haswell’s initial thought was that she might be about to get headbutted.
“[But] she didn’t hurt me, just gently put her head on my head.”
When Ms Hitchcock told Ms Haswell that she loved her, Ms Haswell replied, “I love you too darling.”
But things were to turn nasty. When Ms Haswell bent down to pick up Ms Hitchcock’s hairbrush that had fallen from her bag, she noticed a foot coming towards her head and had to twist Ms Hitchcock’s leg to avoid being kicked, she said.
When she asked Ms Hitchcock to open her bag so she could find an address and take her home, the socialite took off into the middle of the traffic.
“I said to myself, ‘This is my last day. I’m running into the traffic trying to save this woman,’ ” Ms Haswell said.
Cars swerved, youths pointed and laughed and Ms Hitchcock desperately waved at cars until one stopped to give her a ride.
But Ms Haswell feared for Ms Hitchcock’s safety and would not let her take it.
“I said, ‘Get the f— out and come with me,’ ” she said.
Ms Hitchcock then flagged down a cab, but Ms Haswell again objected, and instead called the police, flagging that Ms Hitchcock might have been a prostitute from Kings Cross. Shortly afterwards, officers from the highway patrol arrived.
They tendered evidence that Ms Hitchcock was “amorous” towards Senior Constable Szech Unlu and stroked his face as he spoke to one of her friends on the phone.
Ms Haswell watched from her car and saw Ms Hitchcock kick the two police officers who came to relieve the highway patrol officers, she said.
“She went really berserk. The kicks were coming higher, like almost to the stomach.
“I thought, ‘She’s got sharp heels on, she’s going to kick someone badly,’ so I decided to get out of the car.”
It was then that she saw Ms Hitchcock turn around and bite a policewomen on the leg.
Under cross-examination from Ms Hitchcock’s barrister Greg James, QC, Ms Haswell denied that she wanted to know Ms Hitchcock’s address because she wanted to know where she lived, or that her intentions were any less pure than the desire to help a stranger.
Mr James: “She ran away from you.”
“You chased her.”
“And you grabbed her.”
“You dragged her back to the side of the road.”
“You wanted her under your control.”
Ms Haswell: “No I didn’t want her under my control. I was just trying to help, as a human being.”
The hearing continues.