Blood was pumping out and I thought I was going to die... Northern Ireland woman relives Florida stabbing
A Co Antrim woman who survived a horror stabbing in the US has told how she begged her ex-partner for her life as he plunged a kitchen knife into her neck.
Gillian McCann Johnston (50) described how crazed Dublin man Martin Mahon (59) knifed her multiple times, despite her cries for her children back home in Lisburn.
The mum-of-two only survived after playing dead on the floor of her Florida home.
Mahon, originally from the Walkinstown area, then turned the kitchen knife on himself, slitting his own throat.
Last week, he was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for the October 2014 murder bid.
Recalling the horror, brave Gillian, who has now found love again with retired Florida firefighter Jack, said: "As I was lying on the floor and the blood was pumping out I just thought, I'm going to die. Then I thought of my kids and I imagined someone calling my daughter in Ireland to tell her I was dead. That's when I started to fight back.
"I was begging him, what about my children, your children? My grandkids, your grandkids? You can't do this to them. He didn't care. He said that he had nothing to live for and that if he couldn't have me, no one could."
Mahon set upon his ex-girlfriend, who runs a successful cleaning business, after sneaking into her Fort Lauderdale home as she left out the rubbish.
"I remember coming back inside the apartment and thinking I'd seen something move," she said. "The next thing I knew I had a hand over my mouth and I was stabbed in the neck. He didn't say a word. Then he spoke and I knew it was him. He said he was going to kill me, then himself."
In an attempt to raise the alarm Gillian pushed over a drinks cabinet in her living room.
"Thankfully my next door neighbour Penny heard the crash. The day before she'd been giving off to me because I'd been vacuuming from 7am.
"She came out, again thinking I was cleaning. He had his hand over my mouth at that stage and I bit into his hand and screamed, 'Penny, he's trying to kill me!'
"Then he hit me up the face, pulled me to the ground by my hair and stabbed me in the back.
"I knew Penny was calling 911 so I lay back and pretended I was dead. I looked straight at him and started to make gurgling noises. That's when he cut his own throat. And even after he cut his own throat he still had the knife in his hand. I reached up, grabbed it by the blade, threw it into the kitchen and ran out the door."
Emergency services were on the scene within minutes and both Gillian and Mahon were rushed to hospital.
"They thought he wouldn't make it," she said. "I was wishing he wouldn't pull through because then it would have been over. The doctors told me how the knife just missed my spinal cord and my main artery in my neck. I was lucky to be alive."
However, Mahon survived and days later appeared at Broward County Court on an attempted murder charge. He denied the attack, claiming Gillian had attacked him.
During a five-day trial Gillian was forced to relive the horror, with the court shown images of her wounds.
Jurors heard how the attack happened after the Irish couple split following a two year relationship after meeting in Dublin in 2012.
Mahon had been visiting family in the Walkinstown area when he met the single mother in a pub. After a whirlwind romance Ms McCann Johnston left Ireland and returned to Florida with Mahon. However, the "charmer" soon became abusive and the couple split in 2014.
In September of the same year, she was forced to obtain a restraining order after Mahon threatened to kill her. A month later, the attack happened.
In December, a jury convicted him of second degree attempted murder and violation of a restraining order.
Last week, he was handed the maximum 30-year sentence.
"His attorney wanted him deported back to Ireland with time served," said Gillian.
"Thankfully he was given the maximum sentence. In Florida you don't even have a chance of parole until you serve 85% of it, so that's over 25 years. Even if he does get parole, he will be 85."
Gillian says she now plans to use the horrific experience to help others. She said: "My family wanted me to come home but I've made a life for myself here.
"I decided I'm going to college to become a victims' advocate to help support people who have gone through what I did.
"I believe it wasn't my time to go and there's a reason I am still here."