Man who broke woman's five-storey fall on Oxford Street hoping to find answers nearly 50 years later

Bonnie Christian
Katy and John Woodroffe, in a wheelchair, at the Ashes at Lord's Cricket Ground in 1972 after the accident: John Woodroffe

A man who nearly died after breaking the five-storey fall of a woman in Oxford Street in London is hoping to fill in the gaps of the story nearly 50 years later.

Australian John Woodroffe was 26 when he was knocked unconscious by the woman falling onto him just after he met up with his wife Katy outside his work on March 6, 1972.

The pair miraculously survived with John being released from Middlesex Hospital three months later after his injuries caused a “number of life threatening crises”.

Despite an enduring limp, John had largely “ignored” the incident but now hopes to get in contact with anyone who might know more to the story as he begins to write his memoir.

While he does not remember much from the accident itself, he said it happened as he met Katy just before 6pm outside his office near Oxford Street Station where he was working as a draughtsman for a traffic engineering firm.

John and Katy Woodroffe were splashed across the Examiner Newspaper in Australia after their return to Tasmania in 1972. (John Woodroffe)

The pair had been discussing an upcoming Ashes test at Lord’s Cricket Ground they had tickets to when John was “knocked out”.

“It was devastating to see John slumped against the wall as we had been talking about the forthcoming Ashes selections moments before and it was hard to take everything in,” Katy told the Standard.

John added: “Kate was momentarily knocked out and then thought a bomb must have gone off as it was the time of IRA bombings in the news.“

The trio were rushed to hospital in the same ambulance, where the woman was treated for a broken arm and Katy admitted for the night.

But John suffered multiple fractures to his ribs, collarbone, vertebrae and two compound fractures in his left leg.

“Fat particles from those bone leaked into my blood system (known as fat embolism) and lodged in my lungs,” he said.

“This caused a number of life threatening crises over the ensuing three or four weeks, during which time I was on a respirator. “

He was released three months later, and has maintained a “long-standing friendship” with the nurse who looked after him.

John and Katy Woodroffe are travelling through Europe hoping to find some answers to their long forgotten story. (John Woodroffe)

“My leg was never fixed and I still carry a minor limp and the leg is significantly shorter than the other,” he said.

John and Katy's story made national news in the UK and in Australia with the story of their return home to Tasmania splashed across the local newspapers.

Aside from knowing the woman had been treated at the same hospital, the pair never learned anything else about her until they travelled to Gallipoli for Anzac commemorations a couple of years ago.

Initially they believed they woman may have been pregnant at the time, but after they launched their search this year they have since learned that is likely not the case.

Although they believe the woman, who died in 1979, did have another daughter, who had been aged 10 at the time.

“(She) has not responded to our attempts to make contact, and - I emphasise this - we completely respect,” John said.

John is hoping is memoir will shed some light on the incident for his two children, Ben and Polly, and their 'adored granddaughter.' (John Woodroffe)

During their recent trip, an acquaintance relayed a meeting with a woman who claimed John had saved her life.

“She even mentioned my name. It has been, most frustratingly, a dead end,” he said.

After the Australian Broadcasting Corporation published a story about Mr Woodroffe’s search, an “unexpectedly large response” was triggered both in Australia and the UK.

While they have not had any concrete leads yet, the pair are travelling through Europe with time allowed to travel to the London should someone have more information.

John said that if he were to meet someone connected with his accident, he would simply like to let them know that it has had little impact on their lives.

“From any other family member we would simply like to reach out and show how that it has had no impact on our lives.

“We have simply got on with them and enjoyed happy and successful teaching careers. We would like to think that they have enjoyed the same.”

John hopes to have his memoir finished by sometime next year.

“We have two wonderful children, Ben and Polly, and one adored granddaughter. One of the reasons for writing my story is so they, and others, know the full story.

“Until the Gallipoli thing, we have ignored the incident and even they were somewhat in the dark,” he said.

John said he and Katy was still able to make the Lord’s game.

“We could not use the tickets with me in a full plaster so we asked for a refund. They replied by suggesting we give our tickets to a friend and they provided space for Kate and me right beside the members stand.

“In 2013 we returned and Lords provided us seats for all five days – but this time we lost.”

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