A 68-year-old horse breeder found guilty of numerous sexual assaults cried in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday, 30 June, as he heard the impact his crimes had on victims.
Gregory Richard Douglas, from Peelwood in the NSW Southern Tablelands, was found guilty of molesting five young female backpackers during unwanted massages on his farm between 2014 and 2019.
A German woman, aged 18 at the time of the assaults who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she was facing her “bogeyman” while reading her victim impact statement to the court.
She said she has regular panic attacks and feels unsafe in her own body since the assaults.
“Before I arrived at the farm in Peelwood, I trusted people … I knew myself well and never experienced any mental health issues,” she said.
“You pressured me to have massages when I didn’t want to.”
“You told me you fell in love with me and made me feel like it was my fault … You pursued your goal in a narcissistic manner,” she said.
The woman said Mr Douglas groomed her with gifts, including a horse he named after her.
Another victim, an Australian woman aged 19 at the time of the assaults, said she can no longer be alone with men.
“When I’m in a room with a person who resembles or imitates [Mr Douglas] I feel physically sick … I now find myself guessing other people’s intentions,” she said.
All of Mr Douglas’s victims said they felt trapped and unable to seek help from his isolated property.
They feared Mr Douglas’s friends who visited the property wouldn’t believe them, and some of the women were dependent on Mr Douglas for a second-year working visa.
However, the court heard how Mr Douglas maintains his innocence despite being found guilty of 13 counts of sexual assault in May 2021 and entering full-time custody.
He cried, shook his head and looked confused while listening to the victim impact statements.
He also called the words read by the German woman “lies” but said he forgives her for them.
Mr Douglas’s barrister, Andrew Norrie, said his client has been having a hard time in jail.
He said his client has been the target of “threats and violence” in custody, provoked by media coverage.
A report from Mr Douglas’s psychologist, tendered in court, said he “maintains denial” but “now has a greater knowledge of the laws of consent”.
Mr Norrie said his client’s recent understanding of consent means he is less likely to re-offend.
However, Judge Ian Bourke disagreed.
Judge Bourke said he found it “hard to accept” that a man aged in his early 60s at the time of the assaults didn’t understand the “issues of consent” when pursuing women who were “young enough to be his daughters or granddaughters”.
“When I look at the history, pursuing them for naked or semi-naked massages, it tends to jump out as predatory behaviour,” said Judge Bourke.
He will sentence Mr Douglas on Wednesday, 11 August.