Durban – The most vicious assault he had seen in his career.
That was the evidence from specialist forensic pathologist, Dr Sibusiso Ntsele, highlighted by State advocate Krishen Shah in his closing arguments in the Durban High Court yesterday against former jockey Graham Gregorowski, 35, accused of the murder of his partner, Janet Scott, 54.
She was found dead in the couple’s shared cottage in Shongweni on the night of October 14, 2016.
Yet, as Gregorowski took the stand this week, he said of Scott: “I loved her. She was my best friend.”
The drawn-out trial, which was delayed this year because of the Covid-19 lockdown, resumed on Monday.
The forensic pathologist testified earlier in the trial that the extreme severity of the victim’s injuries could only be a result of a sustained beating “not lasting less than 30 minutes” and that he had only seen similar injuries in car crash victims.
Dressed in a tailored suit, Gregorowski arrived at the court hand-in-hand with a partner on Tuesday, as well as with his mother, who has attended most hearings.
Also in court were members of the Scott family who had arrived from Johannesburg, including the victim’s daughter, Stacey.
The family are well-known in horse racing circles and the discovery of Scott’s beaten and bloody body four years ago sent shock waves through the country’s wealthy mink and manure set.
The week started with the court looking at WhatsApp messages between Gregorowski and Scott in which she professed her love for him, while he belittled and threatened her.
On Tuesday, Gregorowski took the stand and gave his version of events.
He said Scott had been away with her daughter, and on arriving home on October 14, she became upset by the presence of a younger woman named Melissa.
After supper, Gregorowski, Melissa, and another housemate, Reinhard Spamghel (a trial witness), had gone to the Polo Pony Club in Shongweni while Scott had told him she wanted to stay at home and unpack.
Gegorowski testified that soon after he had arrived at the club, he was called outside and punched as he walked through the back entrance of the club. He claims that he fell down and was set upon by three men who kicked and beat him.
“They were kicking me against the side of the wall until I lost consciousness and defecated myself,” he told the court.
He testified that on regaining consciousness, he had run back to the cottage.
When he got to the cottage, Scott was in the shower, and he waited outside until she opened the door.
“I entered and went straight to the bathroom. I had a bleeding nose, and I needed to wash my face,” said Gregorowski, saying Scott followed him, asking if he was breaking up with her because of a younger woman.
He testified that Scott started to attack him while he was washing his face in the basin and that he defended himself by “pushing” Scott and closing the door. He told the court that he “may have given her a backhand”.
Gregorowski said he showered for up to 30 minutes where he “was tripping out” as he claimed to have taken the drug, crystal meth. When he opened the door, Scott was lying on her back on the floor with blood coming out of her nose.
He said when he called out to the deceased, there was no response.
He dragged her down the passage to the bedroom where, he said, he tried to resuscitate her on the bedroom floor by compressions on her chest and blowing into her mouth.
“Blood exited her nose, spraying my face,” he said, “I was panicking, I continued this for about an hour.”
He said he put Scott on the bed, threw a blanket over her, and “and proceeded to hang myself”.
But again, Gregorowski regained consciousness, “and I saw the deceased on the bed and tried to hang myself again”.
When asked by his defence counsel advocate Marshal Zulu why he tried to hang himself, Gregorowski said: “I had just lost someone I had loved. I loved her. She was my best friend.”
He also described how he tried to cut his wrists and when he woke up again, he tried to call his mother a number of times before she called back and he told her “there has been an accident”. His mother alerted the neighbours.
’You beat the life out her. Man up and tell the court what you did.’ – Krishen Shah, State advocate
During cross-examination on Wednesday, State advocate Krishen Shah tore into Greogorowski’s explanation of events, highlighting numerous inconsistencies in his version and challenging the accuracy and veracity of his statements.
Going through photographs from the scene, Shah indicated there was copious amounts of blood on the bed and the wall, evidence a blood spatter expert had testified would be consistent with the victim being beaten on the bed.
There was also evidence of a belt and pliers being used, as well as Scott being stamped or jumped on.
All her ribs were broken, her sternum was cracked and both lungs were lacerated. Her legs and feet had contusions. Scott’s face was unrecognisable to her family when they had to identify the body, with forensic evidence indicating repeated blows to the eyes and face.
Her orbital (eye) sockets were cracked, her face was blue and her head swollen to twice the normal size.
Shah questioned the accused: “You were kicked and punched outside the club according to you, but had no visible injuries, according to the medical examiner. All you did was push the deceased, and she looked like this? How do you reconcile this?”
As the court went through the explicit horrifying details of the victim’s injuries, the Scott family left the courtroom for a short while.
Shah also asked Gregorowski why he did not call for help after he found Scott lying on the bathroom floor: “If you severely injured someone, and if you did not call for help, you would know she was going to die.”
During the cross-examination, Gregorowski said he “was not the sharpest or fastest thinker”, as well as saying he had broken up with Scott two weeks prior to her death and that the Scott family were “out to get him”.
There were moments of high tension during the cross-examination, with Shah telling Gregorowski that he was a liar.
“You beat the life out of her. Man up and tell the court what you did to her. The doctor testified that the assault was not less than 30 minutes of a sustained attack,” said Shah.
“That is the doctor’s opinion,” replied Gregorowski, who has maintained throughout the trial that he did not cause Scott’s death.
He did concede under cross-examination that he was the only other person in the cottage with Scott that night.
In closing yesterday, defence counsel Zulu submitted that according to the accused’s version, the injuries sustained were caused by Gregorowski’s attempt to provide CPR to Scott and that he had only pushed her outside the bathroom.
For the State, Shah said: “The only person who can tell us what went on was the accused, and he hasn’t. The true facts are not consistent with the accused’s version.”
Judge Shyam Gyanda is expected to deliver his verdict on Monday.
The Independent on Saturday