Badly abused Avril Gordon’s life set to improve after damages order
MONSTER husband Freddie Gordon has been ordered to pay his severely abused ex-wife R2-million in damages for the months of hell he put her through.
The court order is a bittersweet victory for Avril, 55, after the six months she spent in hospital being treated for extensive injuries, a lengthy criminal trial and a messy, drawn-out divorce.
The money will enable her to undergo further cosmetic surgery, hire a full-time caregiver and pay for any future medical expenses she may incur as a result of the horrendous assaults.
The order forms part of her divorce from Gordon, 54, which was finalised in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court last week.
Gordon is serving a 40-year jail sentence for the kidnap, rape and assault of Avril. He was convicted in July 2013 following a lengthy trial and still insists he is innocent.
Avril’s lawyer, Joanne Anthony, said they would now work on executing the order. “It is very unusual to have a damages claim form part of a divorce, but this was no ordinary divorce.”
Although it was not yet clear exactly how much money was in Gordon’s pension, she said the order was valid for 30 years.
So, should Gordon be released on parole, any income he might receive had to go towards honouring the court order.
Gordon had locked Avril up in their Forest Hill flat between November 2010 and March 2011, during which time he chained her up and beat, burnt and raped her.
Her injuries were so bad that she had to undergo reconstructive surgery.
Speaking from Bloemfontein at the weekend, where she now lives with her daughter, Beverly Engelbrecht, 33, Avril said she still battled to walk.
“I will never forget what happened, but I am glad I don’t have to face Freddie again,” she said.
Avril is now completely deaf in one ear and blind in one eye.
She said the money would enable her to lead a fairly normal life, although some of the damage could not be undone. She would seek psychological treatment.
Avril’s legal team – Anthony and Advocate Ashley Moorhouse – who acted on a pro bono basis, had argued for Gordon’s SA National Defence Force pension to be relinquished to Avril.
Half the pension will pay for maintenance, while the other half will go towards her future medical expenses and for damages as a result of the savage assaults.
Gordon’s pension fund was frozen shortly after his arrest in 2011. He joined the air force in 1997 and built up a substantial pension, although the exact amount is not yet known.
Moorhouse argued that Avril was entitled to have her humanity restored as much as possible.
She requires a full-time carer as she cannot cook, drive or perform most day-to-day tasks. Her hands are disfigured and the bones in her legs did not heal properly following the assaults, making it difficult for her to get around.
In a lengthy judgment handed down last week, in addition to granting the divorce, magistrate Onica van Papendorp awarded Avril R2-million in damages. This comprised:
• R400 000 in general damages suffered as a result of the assaults;
• R400 000 for future medical expenses;
• R400 000 to employ a caregiver;
• R400 000 in respect of damages for the impairment to her dignity ; and
• R400 000 for psychotherapy. Van Papendorp, of Queenstown, was asked to preside over the case after magistrates in Port Elizabeth said they were too familiar with the matter.
Gordon represented himself in the civil proceedings after firing a string of Legal Aid attorneys.
He had argued that Avril was the sole cause of the breakdown of their marriage. He said she had numerous affairs during their relationship and that it was her who abused him, was aggressive and abused alcohol.
He could not find any witnesses willing to testify on his behalf.
Avril’s lawyers, meanwhile, called plastic surgeon Dr Conrad Hoekstra, who testified about her disfigurement and the further work needed to be done on her scalp, nose, lips and fingers, which would cost around R130 000.
Some of the disfigurement, such as to her ears, could never be repaired.
Psychologist Estelle de Witt also testified that Avril suffered from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder and needed extensive counselling.
She said there was a possibility of dementia present and Avril would need to see a neurosurgeon at least four times a year.