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Rape trial hears how five backpackers were allegedly sexually assaulted during unwanted massages

Hannah Sparks23 April 2021
Gregory Douglas with horse on property

Gregory Richard Douglas bred horses at a remote property in Peelwood, near Goulburn. Photo: Facebook.

A horse breeder accused of sexually assaulting five young female backpackers who were working for him on a remote property near Goulburn would carry out the assaults during massages he said were necessary because of the physical work they were doing, a court has heard.

Gregory Richard Douglas, 68, from Peelwood, is charged with five counts of sexual intercourse without consent, relating to digital penetration; six counts of sexually touching another person without consent; and four counts of assault with an act of indecency, between 2014 and 2019.

The women, aged between 18 and 27, were from Germany, Japan and Australia.

In his opening statement in the trial of Mr Douglas, Crown prosecutor Adrian Robertson told jurors the women would often ‘give in’ to the massages after Mr Douglas had persisted for days or weeks.

The girls often felt scared to say no because they were unable to call for help from the remote farm, and some were relying on Mr Douglas to sign the paperwork for their working holiday visas, said Mr Robertson.

The farm stays were organised through Willing Workers on Organic Farms and the American Institute for Foreign Study, according to facts tendered in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court. The women would volunteer on the farm, which mostly involved caring for horses, in return for food and accommodation provided by Mr Douglas.

Mr Robertson told jurors that Mr Douglas would say the women had back problems, which he noticed from the way they walked.

“You’re working very hard every day – you must continue to have a massage every day,” Mr Douglas allegedly told a Japanese woman.

Mr Douglas would place a mattress on the living-room floor and tell the women to remove their clothing so he could massage them with oil, said Mr Robertson.

If the women didn’t remove their clothing, Mr Douglas would become agitated or straddle the women and remove their clothing himself.

Mr Douglas also sometimes stripped down to his underwear to perform the massage, and one woman reported feeling his penis rub against her.

When the women said they felt uncomfortable, Mr Douglas would assure them there was nothing sexual about the massages.

“It’s just bones and muscles to me, and sex means nothing,” he told a German woman.

He told another German woman: “You’re safe – I don’t want to hurt you. This is not sexualised. I can’t have sex, it hurts me.”

However, during another massage, when a German woman told Mr Douglas to stop as his hand moved close to her vagina, he said, “Oh, come on, it’s just like a magnet to me.”


READ ALSO: Horse breeder charged with sexual assault of backpacker to face trial


He also sometimes apologised to the women the morning after the massage, said Mr Robertson.

The women were alone with Mr Douglas during the massages. However, there were times when Mr Douglas’s wife and son, a friend and other farm volunteers were at the property.

Mr Douglas, who has been in custody since his arrest on 22 October, 2019, has pleaded not guilty to all 15 charges.

His barrister, Andrew Norrie, said Mr Douglas did not deny giving his workers massages but argued they were either non-sexual or consensual.

“In his mind, the complainants and other workers were no good to the accused if these physical issues meant they were unable to work on the farm,” said Mr Norrie.

He said Mr Douglas would be relying on his good character to support his case during the trial.

“He has never been charged with, or convicted of, any sexual criminal offences [before now],” said Mr Norrie.

The trial continues.

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