A WOMAN sexually abused as a child at the hands of her father says justice has been done after he was jailed for 20 years.
The Leader can reveal Cornelis Smit will spend up to two decades in prison for years of sexual abuse – one of the biggest jail sentences ever handed down in Tamworth District Court.
Elisabeth Orr waived her right to anonymity under NSW laws, to ensure people knew exactly what her father had done, and to encourage victims of abuse to come forward.
“I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor,” she told The Leader.
Mrs Orr, now aged 53, was terrorised in the family home on the outskirts of Tamworth growing up in the 1970s, and in some cases her father would keep her home from school “for his pleasure”.
Judge Jeffrey McLennan said Smit could have received a longer jail term had he not received a 25 per cent discount for his early guilty plea to four charges of rape.
Smit, a retired Tamworth diesel mechanic, won’t be eligible for parole for 10 years – and has likely seen the last of his freedom after he was taken into custody in the Tamworth courtroom aged 79, in front of his family.
“It’s 20 years to his life, but he gave me a life sentence,” Mrs Orr said. “I will never, ever be the person I could have been because of what he did to me.”
I will never, ever be the person I could have been because of what he did to me.Elisabeth Orr
Smit was jailed for four counts of rape with four other charges of assaulting a female and committing an act of indecency with a child under the age of 16 taken into account in the aggregate sentence.
According to facts tendered in court, Smit approached the then 13-year-old in 1977 while she was folding the washing inside the family home and raped her.
“This occurred every second to third night while the offender was home,” the facts stated. That same year, he abused her after she got into the top bunk bed in her bedroom to go to sleep.
When Mrs Orr was 14, she was raped again in the home and ordered to go and have a shower after Smit said “words similar to ‘wash yourself out so you don’t get pregnant’”.
After having a shower, the teenager approached the offender and “told him she was going to tell her mother what he was doing to her”.
The offender grabbed the complainant by the wrist and twisted her arm causing her pain. The offender said words similar to 'if you tell her I will kill her and all your brothers and sisters and I will leave you alive so you know you caused it’.Agreed facts tendered to Tamworth District Court
"The offender grabbed the complainant by the wrist and twisted her arm causing her pain. The offender said words similar to 'if you tell her I will kill her and all your brothers and sisters and I will leave you alive so you know you caused it’,” agreed facts stated.
"This caused fear in the complainant, resulting in her not saying anything to her mother".
After keeping quiet for so many years out of fear, the catalyst to come forward was the death of her brother in 2015. Mrs Orr picked up the phone to police after a tearful promise to her brother on his death bed.
“He blamed himself for not protecting me,” she said.
“He never got over it, he was so ashamed that he didn’t stop it.
“It haunted my bother and it’s haunted me.
“So I made a promise that I would take [my father] to court.”
Mrs Orr said her “biggest fear was that they wouldn’t believe me because it was such a long time ago”.
“The two police officers that came out to talk to me, they were brilliant. They listened to me,” she said.
And the Tamworth detectives that took on the case were so patient, so supportive and so determined to help me. Without the detectives, I don’t know that I could of done it.Elisabeth Orr
“And the Tamworth detectives that took on the case were so patient, so supportive and so determined to help me. “Without the detectives, I don’t know that I could of done it.”
In one of the charges taken into account on sentencing, Smit approached the complainant when she was 14 “and said words similar to ‘you’re old enough to please a man, I'm going to teach you how to please a man."
Mrs Orr went to police in 2015 before Smit was placed under phone surveillance by detectives in 2016.
“The offender made several admissions during [a] conversation,” facts stated. Mrs Orr contacted Smit, and in a face-to-face confrontation made admissions during a conversation “to having sex with the complainant”.
He was arrested after Christmas in 2016 and charged.
Although she says justice has been done, Mrs Orr, who has worked as a drug and alcohol counsellor for many years, will never be able to get over what happened to her growing up.
“I hope that it helps others, and that it gives them the strength to come forward,” she said.
“Without the dedication of the detectives, I don’t know that I could of done it.
I hope that it helps others, and that it gives them the strength to come forward. Without the dedication of the detectives, I don’t know that I could of done it.Elisabeth Orr
“[But I thought] this is not my fault, I didn’t do anything to cause this, I didn’t deserve this, I was raped.”
In written submissions, the Crown argued Smit had “breached a position of trust” and the offending occurred “over an extended period and occurs numerous times”.
"He threatened to kill her mother and siblings, leaving her alive to know her disclosure caused the deaths,” the submission said. “This is a significant aggravating feature of the offending."
Barrister Jason Curtis argued his client had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, had no criminal history, “his age and illnesses” would be tougher to deal with in prison and he was likely to be moved to a Sydney prison, away from any visiting family members.
In a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) to the court, Mrs Orr detailed how she “feared him” and “prayed he would crash his car on the way home”.
She said her father “stole my innocence”, “made me fear for my safety and the safety of my family”.
“He controlled me by my fear of what he could do and what he said he would do if I dared share out secret,” she said in her VIS.
Smit will be 89 when he’s eligible for parole in 2027.