RETIRED New South Wales police officer Vicki McCrohon can vividly recall the sound of a punch which knocked unconscious a shopping centre security guard walking beside her.
The tattooed face of the guard's attacker has also stuck with Ms McCrohon since she inadvertently became a victim in a coward punch assault.
Ms McCrohon, 64, said she was disappointed the attacker, 23-year-old Nathan Leonard Richards, had avoided prison when sentenced on Monday for punching Kawana Shoppingworld security guard Sean Kahl.
She had been shopping on November 3 last year when she walked into a hallway near the toilets.
Mr Kahl was behind her, walking a bit faster while he concentrated on something he had in his hand.
"By the time we reached the entrance to the male toilet on the left, he was beside me," Ms McCrohon said.
She noticed Richards come around a corner from the opposite direction.
"I initially thought he (Richards) was going to put his arm around him (Mr Kahl) and say 'how are you going mate'."
But Richards instead unleashed a left-handed punch which dropped Mr Kahl straight into her.
"It was so loud," she said.
"Sean fell into me and I fell onto the ground and into the entrance of the male toilet.
"I got up off the floor and took a quick look at Sean, who appeared to be unconscious."
She instinctively chased after Mr Richards, calling out to him.
But when the martial arts instructor turned to respond, she realised it was a battle beyond her capabilities.
"I thought, 'what am I going to do with him? Those days are gone'."
She returned to see blood pooling on the floor around Mr Kahl's head.
He did not respond to her voice.
"I didn't know if he was alive or dead to tell you the truth," she said.
She tried to roll him onto his side and told passers-by to call emergency services.
Mr Kahl started to regain consciousness about five minutes later and was taken to hospital.
Ms McCrohon met with Mr Kahl on his request about five months ago.
She said he was very emotional and thanked her for helping him.
"He broke down crying when he thanked me," she said.
"He has had a terrible time trying to readjust."
Ms McCrohon's career included 20 years as a New South Wales police officer, six years as a principal intelligence officer for the former Criminal Justice Commission and 17 years working as an intelligence officer for Sunshine Coast police.
She retired due to health concerns in 2012.
She said the 18 month sentence with immediate parole imposed on Mr Richards on Monday made her question the effectiveness of the justice system.
"I just wonder about the king hit policy," she said. "What happened there?
"The police put a lot of time and effort into the investigating these incidents for such little reward to the community.
"I think a lot of the community are quite unsatisfied with court results these days."
A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the courts decided matters based on the fact before them.
"We will not be commenting further," she said.