A CAN of insect repellent became an elderly woman's only defence during a violent home invasion that left her with knife wounds to her entire body and needing surgery to save her hand.
When the Bundaberg region woman, who only wanted to be known only as Dell, heard her dogs barking on her rural property late in the afternoon on December 29, she thought nothing of it.
"We have a lot of people that have been driving down near my place to camp on vacant lots that are for sale," the woman said.
"Unbeknownst to me, (the dogs) were warning me there was someone on the other side of the 6ft-high fence."
The barking did not subside, so the 74-year-old put her pets on a running lead, turned on the radio to drown out the noise and started to prepare dinner.
"I'm chopping away and the next thing I know I have a knife under my chin," she said.
The man demanded money and, when Dell refused, he picked up the heavy wooden, banjo-shaped chopping board and began slapping her across the face.
"He used it like a bat," she said.
"The knife came in all directions - I've got stab marks on my knees, my breasts and arms."
The final blow to Dell's head sent her tumbling to the ground, right beside the can of insect repellent.
"I emptied the whole thing into his face," she said.
The terrified woman rushed to unleash her two dogs - two dingo-cross terriers.
"He was screaming - I don't know where he was but I think the dogs did a bit of damage," she said.
Exhausted, bloodied and cradling severed fingers on her left hand, Dell rushed inside and collapsed.
She awoke 10 hours later and drove herself with one hand to Bundaberg's Mater Hospital, where she underwent immediate micro-surgery to save her injured hand.
She believed the man to be in his 30s, well-dressed with leather-soled shoes, and carrying a backpack.
The man appeared to be affected by drugs.
Dell did not report the assault to police, and said she only came forward to warn others, particularly those who lived by themselves.
But Bundaberg police Detective Sergeant Andrew Self said the home invasion should be reported.
"We strongly urge this woman to come forward and make her complaint to police. We do not want this type of activity in the community," he said.