Warning: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
A European backpacker who was kidnapped, raped and held captive in an old pig shed on a South Australian farm has told the court she was treated like a “slave” and felt “powerless” during the terrifying ordeal.
The District Court is preparing to sentence Gene Charles Bristow, 54, who was last week found guilty of aggravated kidnapping, rape and indecent assault.
The woman, who is now aged 26, sat in the same courtroom as her attacker, accompanied by her family and investigating officers.
Prosecutor Michael Foundas read a victim impact statement from the woman detailing the consequences it had on her life after the two-day ordeal in February 2017.
“What happened to me was really horrible, terrifying and deadly,” she said.
“That was all I could think about when I was locked in that shed, I was afraid I would never see my family again because I thought I would die in Australia.
“I thought about how much my family would suffer if I died here and that hurt so much.
“I tried not to think about them, because it was just too painful, but it was because of them that my instincts to survive kicked in.”
During the trial, the court heard Bristow held the woman captive in a dirty, old pig shed which was isolated on his 40-hectare property at Meningie.
Bristow threatened to shoot the woman before shackling her in chains and subjecting her to repeated sexual abuse.
“While I was in that shed, I felt like an animal or a slave,” she said.
“I was locked in chains, held against my will and had to endure things that nobody should have to endure.
“I felt powerless and miserable. It was terrifying.”
The court heard Bristow told the woman he was working as part of a sex slave ring where men abducted and drugged women before shipping them to Sydney.
“He took everything from me, not only did he take my clothes and my belongings – but also my freedom, my mind, my family, my friends, I felt so powerless,” the backpacker said.
“He told me not to trust anyone else, not even the police, and I believed him.
“I felt stupid that I let him manipulate me in that way, that I was naive and that I didn’t know any better.”
During the night, the woman managed to break free from her shackles and use her laptop to send distress messages to her family, friends and SA Police.
When police started searching the area, the court heard Bristow panicked and drove the woman back to Murray Bridge where he helped her check into a motel and left.
Personality changed after crime
In her statement, the woman said she was a happy, confident and independent person before the ordeal, but was now scared to leave her house on her own.
“I flew to Australia on my own and I was very excited to see the country and experience many different things,” she said.
“I had so many plans of things I wanted to do while I was here, it was the biggest thing I had ever done in my life.
“I thought Australia was a safe place because the people were so friendly and nice … I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me, but it did.”
The backpacker said when she returned to her home country, she was not the same person she used to be and for the first year she had trouble sleeping and hardly left her house.
“I never went anywhere without my mother,” she said.
“I was very anxious, suffered with lots of flashbacks and cried all the time. It was sad and debilitating.
“There have been many days where I feel very sad and have a lot of pain inside of me.”
The court heard the woman took self-defence classes after she was attacked to try and restore her confidence.
“Sometimes I think it’s a curse to be born a woman … I think we are not safe at all,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, evil is everywhere and I wonder how I can protect myself.”
Bristow, who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for his crimes, showed no emotion as the statement was read.
The woman told the court she would never forgive him for what he did.
“I don’t think you should be allowed out of jail,” the woman said.
“I would never want anyone else to have to go through what I went through.”
The court will hear submissions on Bristow’s sentence on March 28.
If this story has caused you distress, help is available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636