Five young female backpackers, some aged just 18, were simply looking to travel around Australia or learn more about rural life.
They came from across the world – from Germany, Japan and Australia – and were all lured to a horse breeder’s remote farm at Peelwood, a small locality outside Goulburn with a population of around 34.
The women began to work for, and some even began to trust, Gregory Richard Douglas. But there, when they were isolated, he began acting strangely, forcing unwanted massages on them.
In time, he would sexually assault each of the women.
The assaults, including rape, often happened after he pursued them relentlessly over massages, making comments like they had “bad movement”.
On Wednesday (11 August), Judge Ian Bourke SC told the NSW District Court that Douglas’s claim he only gave the massages for therapeutic reasons was “transparently unbelievable” before jailing him for up to nine years.
Judge Bourke said the 68-year-old pursued the women, aged between 18 and 27 and young enough to be his grandchildren, for his own sexual gratification.
He said several women had given statements to the court describing the shame they felt as a result of Douglas’s “selfish acts”.
“The only person who should feel shame is the offender,” he said.
Judge Bourke said Douglas had abused his position of authority on vulnerable victims as the women were often alone with him at the isolated farm which had no mobile reception or public transport.
His modus operandi was telling the women they needed a massage to fix a problem with their bodies, persisting until they complied. He then convinced them to take off their clothes.
He would touch their inner thighs, breasts, buttocks or near their genitals, and digitally penetrate two women.
“Don’t go weird on me,” he told an 18-year-old after he digitally raped her.
The women had come through organisations like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOFers) or the American Institute for Foreign Study between 2014 and 2019.
One of them, aged 18, told the District Court she had tried to avoid the massages but eventually “just endured it” when Douglas became grumpy or annoyed.
“Sometimes it feels like it was all my fault, but actually no, it wasn’t,” she said.
She said she wished she could go back to being the happy, carefree girl she was before the abuse, but that girl no longer existed.
Judge Bourke said Douglas had told a psychologist he began suffering migraines after being bashed in his jail cell, which he attributed to media reporting of the case.
The psychologist said he had lost his home and his business as a result of the charges.
Judge Bourke said Douglas had also told the psychologist he believed that any sexual contact between him and the women was consensual, and he had “no idea of the minefield he had entered”.
As Douglas maintained his innocence, the judge said he could find no evidence of remorse.
At his jury trial earlier this year, Douglas had been found guilty of three counts of indecent assault, six counts of sexual touching and four counts of sexual intercourse without consent.
Judge Bourke said Douglas’s non-parole period would be six years, which means he is eligible for release in October 2025. His nine-year head sentence will expire in October 2028.