DV survivor confronts man who stabbed her
TWO guards, a thick glass wall and several rows of seats in the gallery of Brisbane Supreme Court separate this woman from the man she almost loved to death.
She is still terrified.
A deep scar from where the blade of his large kitchen knife plunged into her jaw and tore right through to the inside of her mouth is concealed by heavy make-up. A black dress hides any evidence of the repeated slashes to her back she received while pinned down on a Sunshine Coast driveway.
She is sobbing, shaking uncontrollably and can be heard willing herself not to throw up.
But, despite the apparent trauma and a delayed flight which threatened to keep her from this life moment, she is here this Friday morning to show James Darren Dower she is a survivor and to see him brought to justice.
The court hears that on the night she finally found the courage to end an eight-year volatile relationship in August, 2015, Dower armed himself with a knife, chased her outside their Warana flat and told her "I'm going to slit your throat tonight. You're dead".
Over and over he screamed "I'm going to f**king kill you" as he lunged at her with the long blade.
He was only stopped when a friend and one of the couple's housemates stepped in.
Crown Prosecutor Phil McCarthy tells the court that but for the intervention of surgeons, the woman would have been disfigured and exposed to life-threatening infection.
If only she had known a decade ago, when she first met Dower through a horse training role which saw her work for the likes of racing royalty Gai Waterhouse, that a dark personality trait lurked beneath the surface.
That 17 years ago, when another woman Dower had promised to love tried to leave him near Sydney, she was punched in the face and forced to watch as her furniture was destroyed and her belongings thrown through shattered glass windows.
If this new victim had known, could she have avoided eight years of constant torment, of leaving and being convinced to return amid fears Dower would kill himself?
It didn't help that he was a chronic alcoholic and she was a drug user.
Their addictions cost them their jobs and added pressure to their already toxic relationship which was in tatters by the time they relocated to the Sunshine Coast in 2014.
Days before the knife attack, the woman took Dower's wallet as he slept and bought meth which, after an argument, they eventually used together.
During a later confrontation at their home over the stolen money, Dower punched the woman in the face.
She left, slept in her car next to the beach and returned on what could have been her last day to gather her things and end the relationship for good.
In a victim impact statement read out on her behalf, the woman calls Dower, now aged 46, a "selfish man" who thought he could control her fate.
"Just like the scars on my body, there are many more that can't be seen physically," the statement reads.
"I now struggle to think of having a relationship in a positive way. My self-esteem has been totally shattered.
"I remember those emotional taunts which were just as cruel and frenzied as the stabbing.
"I hope after all of this I can finally get some quality sleep knowing you are in the place you deserve to be."
Describing Dower's treatment of the woman throughout the relationship as "appalling", Justice Ann Lyons says it was clear he did not value his partner and had caused her great fear.
She asks Dower, who has pleaded guilty to wound with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, if he wants to say anything. He replies "I am deeply remorseful ... I am quite happy to get my judgment".
He is sentenced to seven years in jail.
A psychologist report on Dower's court file warns there is a "high risk" he will harm future partners if faced with a like situation.
He will be eligible to apply for parole on February 24 next year.
*For 24-hour support phone Queensland's DVConnect on 1800 811 811 or MensLine on 1800 600 636, NSW's Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463 or the national hotline 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
- ARM NEWSDESK