IN one of the most horrifying cases of domestic abuse ever recorded in Port Elizabeth, a traumatised and malnourished 52-year-old woman is in a serious condition at Greenacres Hospital after allegedly being locked up and savagely burnt and beaten with chains and table legs for more than three months.
When police finally discovered Avril Gordon after being alerted by suspicious neighbours, she was “days from death”.
Her 42-year-old husband, Air Force sergeant Frederick Gordon, has been arrested and will appear in court tomorrow for a bail application date to be finalised.
Humewood Police Station head Brigadier Ronald Koll said he had never dealt with such a “gruesome” case where a woman “was treated like a slave and beaten into submission”.
“She has lost everything and has no clothes, no money, no friends – absolutely nothing. We were so horrified about this case that everyone clubbed together to buy her the bare essentials like a toothbrush and some basic clothing,” he said.
Due to the severity of this case we are going to be opposing bail.” Humewood Police Station’s Colonel Mark Houwland said police were alerted last Thursday after neighbours contacted the emergency call centre following months of hearing crying coming from a flat in Morstone, in Forest Hill.
“When officers arrived, he (Gordon) refused to open the door, claiming to have lost the flat keys,” Houwland said.
“Gordon told officers everything was fine, but they then heard crying from inside. An officer kicked the door open and found her (Avril) in a bedroom covered in blood.”
Gordon was arrested and Avril was taken to Livingstone Hospital. She was later transferred to Greenacres Hospital in a “very serious condition”.
Yesterday morning, Avril underwent emergency surgery as her nose was split in half and her body covered in open wounds. According to doctors, she also had severe burns on her back.
Investigating officer Detective-Sergeant Paul Roelofse said if Avril had not been found, it was “very possible” she would have died within days.
“From what we understand, he allegedly locked her in a small bathroom in the flat at 7am every day when he went to work.
“She used to have a few slices of bread inside the bathroom with her and would only be let out when he came home at about 4pm.
“We are still trying to talk to her, but it is very difficult as she is severely traumatised. Neighbours had heard “very faint crying” coming from the flat “for weeks” but thought it was an infant crying. “Only when the crying became repetitive over a few weeks, did they alert the police,” Roelofse said.
“The beatings started getting very intense over the past three months which … progressed to full-blown attempted murder.”
Roelofse said Gordon allegedly kept Avril’s bank card so she could not access funds or flee.
Gordon, who is divorced from his first wife, allegedly has a history of domestic violence. However, police did not want to comment on former cases, saying they formed part of the current investigation.
A visit to the flat yesterday revealed blood splatters on all the bedroom walls, with only the bare essentials inside the house. A handful of Avril’s bloodied hair lay on the floor, near to about 15 empty beer cans on a coffee table. Bloodied clothes, pots, pans and torn books were scattered around.
Residents, who did not want to be named, said Gordon was always “polite” and generally a “pleasant man”.
But one man said: “He always drank and would come home from work with a pack full of beers every night. “He would never let anyone into the flat, as if he was hiding something.”
A neighbour said he was surprised a woman lived in the flat as she was never seen. “I come and go all day and have never seen a woman there,” he said. “I always saw him coming in and out of the flat … alone.”
The military police said protocol prohibited them from disclosing details about a police investigation. A military insider, however, said Gordon had a history of assault and was being investigated internally.
He is due to appear in the North End Magistrate’s Court tomorrow for a date for a formal bail application to be set.