By Kathryn Kimberley
FROM Avril Gordon’s nightmare has emerged a guardian angel in the form of a policeman.
The petite 53-year-old rape and abuse survivor – whose husband Frederick Gordon is on trial in the Port Elizabeth Regional Court for attempted murder, kidnapping and rape – has formed a close bond with the burly policeman assigned to her case.
The first time Detective Paul Roelofse met Avril, she was battered and bruised to the extent that she was barely coherent.
That was on March 26 last year – a day after she was rescued from the Forest Hill apartment where she had allegedly been chained up and tortured by her husband for several months. He denies the allegations.
Sitting next to her Provincial Hospital bed on the morning of March 26, Roelofse promised Avril that he would not rest until justice was restored.
First, he made sure she was transferred to a private hospital so that she could receive only the best treatment.
This was paid for by her husband’s military medical fund. Gordon was employed by the air force at the time. And while Avril underwent extensive reconstructive surgery to her face and body, Roelofse tied up the evidence against the alleged perpetrator.
Taking Avril’s testimony was painstaking as she battled to talk or would break down and cry. It took at least two days for Roelofse to jot down all the allegations.
Avril’s sister-in-law, Trysie van der Merwe, said it was someone like Roelofse that would help restore Avril’s faith in men.
“He is a beautiful person inside and out. He goes above and beyond his call of duty to make sure Avril feels safe. Her family would like to thank him,” Van der Merwe said.
“It also proves to Avril that not all men are evil or out to hurt her. She has forgotten what it feels like for someone to treat her with respect.”
Avril, who relocated to Johannesburg last year, is currently in Port Elizabeth where she is testifying against her husband in the regional court.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and rape.
While she struggled through her testimony in court, Roelofse remained by her side.
Roelofse held her microphone up when her hand got tired, handed her a tissue when she started to cry, and at lunch time made sure she had something to eat – at a restaurant of her choice.
But the harrowing testimony has taken its toll on Avril and the matter had to be postponed to Tuesday, December 4 to allow her to recover before continuing with cross-examination.
Defence attorney Ramona van Vuuren was questioning Avril when she fell ill.
“She is tired. She didn’t sleep well last night. The case has really taken its toll on her,” Van der Merwe said.
The two have been friends since childhood.
Avril later married Van der Merwe’s brother, but he died in an accident at work.
While the two women remained close, they lost contact when Avril married Gordon. He allegedly prevented her from communicating with friends and family throughout their two-year marriage.
Avril and Van der Merwe have since restored their relationship.
They have been put up in a place of safety while they are in Port Elizabeth.
Although Roelofse was not taking calls on Friday, the veteran police officer has admitted that the case has taken a toll on him and testified that it was one of the worst cases of domestic violence he had ever come across.
Meanwhile in court on Friday, November 30, Gordon appeared unfazed when his wife described him as a monster.
Instead, he sat up, turned to the gallery and smirked. Then he hovered over his pad of paper and wrote something down.
After listening to her testimony of how he allegedly beat, burned and raped her for several months at a time, he insisted it was his turn to put questions to Avril.
His questions were read out by attorney for the defence Ramona van Vuuren, who explained to the court she was simply following her client’s instructions.
“I am going to read the questions exactly as he wrote them down. It is my instruction,” she said.
“When police kicked down the flat’s door and cuffed him [Gordon], did you tell them he did not harm you?” Van Vuuren asked.
“No, I did not,” Avril responded.
She said Gordon’s claim that on March 29 last year she visited him at court and told him she would withdraw the charges was “rubbish”.
“I was in hospital. I could barely walk. How can I be in two places at once? He is dreaming.”
Avril sobbed as she pleaded with the court to lock up her husband.
“I don’t want him near me. I don’t want to see him,” she said.
Their divorce is pending.
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, December 1, 2012.