HE had no idea it would be the job that would change his life forever.

Police officer Ian Austin had just one shift to go before he could spend Christmas at home together with his wife and three children.

But when Ian was the first to arrive on the Christmas Eve call out at a city centre pub brawl alone with no back up, he was severely beaten with fists, feet and even crutches with so much force they snapped.

He awoke Christmas day with a fractured skull and brain swelling but had no idea the worst wounds were to come - mental scars.

However in a remarkable tale of triumph over adversity, today Ian has turned his life around. He has found love and is today enjoying a new career as an upcoming crime author.

"Everything changed that Christmas Eve and I changed into a different person," he said.

"Of course I wish it had never happened, but I wouldn't be here now doing what I am doing if it hadn't."

For Ian, his love affair with the police he calls his 'family but a dysfunctional one' began when he was stationed at Eastleigh aged 21 - and he has no regrets.

Ian, who grew up in Bitterne, said: "If I hadn't been a policeman, I'd probably have been a criminal. I wasn't a very good boy and was hopeless at school.

"If anyone was born to do a job, I was born to be in the police. I loved every minute of it. Who wouldn't love it? It's like cowboys and Indians for grown ups.

"I owe everything to the police, it taught me so many different things and allowed me to find myself."

Daily Echo:

Ian Austin pictured far left. 

However, that passion for the force was tested on Christmas Eve 1991.

"I was called to a pub fight and I just happened to get there first. Rather than fight each other, they decided to fight me. There were about a dozen men and they all had a kick or a punch.

"I was very badly hurt but I soon realised the mental side is far far worse than the physical injuries."

Ian returned back to work but was sent home on leave again.

He explained: "I went a bit loopy. I used to volunteer to go on jobs on my own when I was told to wait for back up, as if I was trying to prove to everyone that I was okay when, all I was doing was showing that I really wasn't."

Eight months later following treatment including counselling and hypnotherapy, Ian returned to work where his career took off. He was appointed into the surveillance team and says he became the youngest person to qualify as a trainer for the National Crime Squad before becoming a CID detective.

Despite his success at work though, the attack took its toll on his personal life and led to the break down of two marriages - one that lasted 10 years and the next 10 months.

Ian, said: "For two years after the attack I had a constant headache 24/7. It was horrendous at first, living like that, but when it went, it was even worse.

"You get to live with this thing in your head all the time but when that goes and you feel like there is nothing in your head at all, that was so much worse.

"It was terrifying. I used to cry and wish my headache would come back.

"Today my sister says if I wrote down the past 15 years of my life, people wouldn't believe it has happened to me.

"I seem to have done everything to the extreme. Hand on heart, it was my fault my marriage didn't work out.

"Our break up was much due to the injury and the recovery process because it was hell for her, me being like I was. That is why that marriage ended. I treated her so badly. I didn't realise how ill I was.

"One of the biggest lessons I have learnt in my life is you can't make anyone else happy in this world unless you are happy yourself and you have to do everything you possibly can, every single day, to get to that point.

"I honestly believed for a long time there were some people, for whatever reason, that were just not destined to ever be happy and that I was one of those people."

In 2002 the New Zealand Police recruited officers from the UK and in his search for happiness, Ian decided to leave his life in Hampshire and move across the world near Auckland.

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It was there he met the love of his life, his partner Sallie Clough, a renowned artist, who inspired him to follow his dreams.

Working as an officer and writing statements, interviews and contemporaneous accounts of crimes, Ian realised his natural talent for storytelling and so, with Sallie's support, he left the force and put pen to paper.

"Sallie and I are completely different in so many ways - she's very creative and spiritual and I am very matter of fact, but it just works. We are not a conventional couple and we do spend time apart but we are a phenomenal team. I couldn't have done this without her."

Daily Echo:

Ian pictured with his partner Sallie. 

The 52-year-old self-published his first book in 2010, a family drama set in New York, and went on to sign a publishing deal with an American publisher. He is now preparing to launch the first of a trio of crime books called The Agency later this year, edited by Stephen Stratford who works with Ian Rankin.

The first novel is about a detective based in New Zealand which culminates in the Auckland marathon.

"Everything I write is loosely based on experiences I have had," explained Ian.

"I want you as a reader to be able to smell the difference in blood that is three days old than blood that is seven days old. "I can describe the sound to you the noise a knife makes when it enters the body.

"I am so lucky and happy to be doing what I am doing now. I never thought I would find anything that would give me as much satisfaction as writing does.

"I am just a different person, a much better person. Even I didn't like myself before.

"My dream is to become a successful writer but successful to me, as opposed to what other people regard as successful. "I've learned through the bad stuff the value of the word enough and what enough means.

"It is making the best of every moment because really that is all you have got.

"Everything five seconds ago is history and you can't change that. Everything that is going to happen in five seconds time is in the future and you can't alter that, so that leaves you with the right here and the right now.

"The only thing that stops you doing anything in this world is you."

For more information go to ianaustin.org