29 May 2021

Publican sexually assaulted former partners, uploaded "despicable crimes" online

| Albert McKnight
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Joshua Robert Leemhuis

Joshua Robert Leemhuis, the former publican of the George Harcourt Inn, has pleaded guilty to rape and sexual assault charges. Photo: Facebook.

A well-known Canberra publican felt a “thrill” when filming his unconscious or unaware former partners as he raped or filmed them while they were naked over many months.

Joshua Robert Leemhuis, the 35-year-old former manager of the George Harcourt Inn, has admitted he violated the women on multiple occasions.

Court documents show he filmed himself repeatedly raping or sexually assaulting the first woman while she was unconscious. He secretly took naked photos of the second woman before uploading them to an amateur pornography website.

In the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (28 May), the two women described the emotional and psychological abuse they suffered from his “controlling behaviours”.

One woman, whose mother had discovered the recordings, said the first time she saw footage of her being assaulted was horrifying.

“I remember my heart beating so fast and hard I could hear it in my ears,” she said.

“The level of my unconsciousness [in the footage] is sickening.”

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She said during the time he was assaulting her, she had many unexplained medical episodes, including feeling like she was going to have a seizure, having an unclear recollection of falling asleep, being foggy and fainting.

Before the footage of his crimes against her was found, he had made many people, including herself at times, believe that she was crazy.

“I believe his need to have full and total control over me was at the core of who he is,” she said.

“I was in our bed with the person who should have been protecting me. I should have been safe. Instead, I was raped and filmed.”

She now lives with overwhelming feelings of shame and humiliation “that won’t go away”.

“It will just be about learning how to live with it,” she said.

Her mother described the horror she felt when uncovering the photos showing his offending while browsing through family photographs in May last year. She said her daughter “looked dead in the images”.

“I was overcome with panic,” she said.

“No one should be violated like this.”

Joshua Leemhuis

Leemhuis’s former partners gave their written consent to the media to name the man who violated them. Photo: Facebook.

The court documents show how the mother wanted to preserve family photos following the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, so was reviewing memory cards in her possession when she found the horrific images.

She said while Leemhuis portrayed himself as a man of the community, it was his “bloated ego” and “total lack of respect” for her daughter that enabled him to commit his crimes.

Leemhuis’s other former partner told him, as he sat in the court’s dock, that he had made up so many lies denying his crimes and making himself out to be the victim and had constantly convinced her to doubt herself and her sanity.

She said the photos were “humiliating and degrading”, and she was “mortified” that Leemhuis had uploaded them to the internet, describing him as a “monster” who had committed “despicable crimes”.

The partner of one of Leemhuis’s victims told the court what had been stolen from her was “irreplaceable”, and he worried about her ability to recover.

“I’m so proud of the courage [she] has shown over the last 12 months,” he said.

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After the victims told the court about the impact the crimes had left on them, community corrections officer and author of a pre-sentencing report Ellen Grieves said Leemhuis told her he felt a “thrill in the moment” when it came to making the films, rather than getting gratification from re-watching the footage.

On the stand, Leemhuis admitted that the “majority” of what his former partners had said was true.

“What I have done is unforgivable,” he said.

“There’s no reason whatsoever you wouldn’t have pure hatred for me.”

Leemhuis also talked about how his experience of jail had been “absolutely terrifying” when he first arrived after he was arrested in June last year.

“Everything that I would have had nightmares about it being, it is,” he said, his voice cracking as he spoke.

His father also took the stand and was asked how he felt about his son’s crimes.

“A lot of it still horrifies me,” he said, visibly emotional.

“But I will be there no matter what. He’s my son and I will continue to support him despite everything.”

Earlier this year, Leemhuis pleaded guilty to 22 charges that included four counts of sexual intercourse without consent, eight counts of committing acts of indecency without consent and seven counts of non-consensually distributing an intimate image.

Justice John Burns adjourned the case to 22 June. Leemhuis’s former partners gave their written consent to the media to name the man who violated them.

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