A man dragged himself “arm over arm” to reach his injured girlfriend after a gunman shot both of them in the back outside a NSW Hunter Valley home.

Witnesses who were woken by a rapid gunfire have described how the man clawed his way along the ground to reach his partner, crying out “where are you babe” before collapsing beside her.

The attacker fled the scene after the shooting outside a Housing Commission property in Cassia Way, Metford, near Maitland, about 9.50pm (AEST) on Thursday.

A 38-year-old man was arrested on Friday after presenting himself at a hospital with a number of injuries. He remains under police guard at the unnamed facility.

The injured couple are in Newcastle’s John Hunter hospital. The man, 35, was listed as stable. The condition of the woman, 26, was serious but stable.

Police said they believed the gunman and the victims were known to each other.

A witness on Friday said he could see bullet wounds on the injured man’s back as he crawled towards his wounded girlfriend.

“We could see the two bullet holes in his back and he just kept crawling … arm over arm, he couldn’t move his leg, just arm over arm, ‘where are you babe? where are you babe?’,” the witness told Macquarie Radio.

“He just went along the footpath there, up the gutter, a good 30 or 40 metres until he got to his girlfriend and then he rolled over.”

A woman who lives next door to the house where the shooting occurred said she heard “rapid” gunshots that “sounded like crackers” shortly after going to bed last night.

“I wasn’t sure that it was gunshots to start with,” the woman, who did not want to be named, said.

“You’re not used to hearing those things, it just sounded like crackers really.”

She said she called police after seeing the injured couple.

“My husband and the neighbour from the other side went to try and help the man and were saying to him, ‘Just stay there, the ambulance is on its way’ and he was saying, ‘No, I’ve got to get to …’ – I don’t know what name he was saying, he was just wanting to be with his girlfriend.

“He dragged himself along the street. He said he couldn’t walk, he said he couldn’t move his legs. He just dragged himself along with his hands and he just kept going until he got to where his girlfriend was.”

The neighbour said she had never seen the couple before, and believed they were just visiting at the home where a couple and two children lived.