Gavin Wingrave shares his traumatic prison ordeal

MBOMBELA – The stars and the sun shine brighter for Gavin Wingrave after he was released from prison. In the past week his life changed dramatically, twice. First when he was arrested for murder last Friday and again when he was released from prison on Wednesday, a free man.

He allegedly killed a man in self-defence. His emotions roller-coastered between tears and joy while he related his story to Lowvelder on Thursday morning. “It is one thing for a criminal to be put into jail, but when you are innocent it is another story,” he said.

Wingrave appeared in the White River Magistrate’s Court on Monday and was expected to remain in custody until his bail hearing this coming Monday. He was called back to court on Wednesday.

Read more here: UPDATE: Local to spend another week in custody for alleged murder

“The magistrate had to say it (that the charges had been dropped) twice.”

Wingrave, a rope-access technician, said he was not allowed to speak to the media about what had happened, as the matter was still under investigation.

Albert Gryvenstein’s version of events were that Wingrave was travelling on a dirt road in the Rocky Drift area last Friday when a rock hit his vehicle. He stopped to take a look at the damage when he was allegedly attacked by the very same man who had purportedly thrown the rock. A scuffle ensued during which he allegedly stabbed the attacker in the chest with a knife. He was then taken into custody.

“Monday was the worst day of my life. I was told I was going to prison. There was a magistrate looking at me telling me they want to keep me for another seven days. My legs felt like they were going to collapse while my mind was trying to compute this.”

Read more here: Wife gets 12 years behind bars for conspiracy to murder her husband

He was to be taken to Nelspruit Correctional Services.

“While they were telling me this, there was no one (else) there, I was all alone.”

At this point in the interview Wingrave broke down and cried as he recalled the trauma.

“Nobody knew I was going to Nelspruit prison. I had not planned to be in for another seven days. I just wanted to scream, but it was not going to help.” He said he had been warned by his attorney that this could happen.

“The words were just verbal, its was not a physical thing, it was just verbal. Then when it happened – I knew then, game on, it was survival mode.” Wingrave never thought his bush survival skills would ever come in handy for something else happening in his life.

“Here I am in a prison using survival techniques. All you see is a strip of light through the door. So you can judge roughly when the sun comes up. I started to work out a clock, I started to see where the shade was to roughly read the time.

“Seconds matter in prison. You don’t have a phone to look at, not a book to read, no paper or pen to write with, so time breaks down to milliseconds which drag on. And not even a blanket at night to keep you warm.

“It’s survival mode until a magistrate either gives you bail or drops the charges.” Jokingly he said, “Lowvelder was there. I didn’t know I would start even reading the copyright parts and disclaimers of the publication.

“I read it three or four times. It becomes a habit to say you’re going to read the newspaper three or four times.

“I saw some prisoners even cut out the articles and read them over and over to pass the time.”

On Tuesday morning the prison erupted when Lowvelder carried his story. “Suddenly I was a celebrity there. This helped me get along with fellow prisoners and when they saw how young and beautiful my wife was, I was even more popular,” laughed Wingrave.

Although soon the laughter turned to tears as he recalled how his wife had gone to extreme lengths to plan a friend’s stork party on the day of his arrest. He was supposed to help her.

“I knew how important it was to her and how hard she had worked to make everything perfect. She had made these balloon biscuits.

“And there I was in jail and she obviously could not enjoy the day as much as she was supposed to.

“This led to the worst day I had. On Sunday when she was able to visit me, she brought me a bag with a mug of tea and one of the cookies. I just broke down because I had caused her all of this trauma.”

His ballroom dancing teaching skills also helped Wingrave in prison as he could read people’ s body language which helped him through the days.

He had once been a police reservist and this career started at the very same White River Police Station where he was recently arrested.

He had worked there on the same shifts and many times would help the detectives and dog and rescue units. “That is when I became friends with Danie Theron. I could never repay him for what he has done for me over the years. I hope if ever a moment comes for him, I can be there.”

He has great appreciation for the respectful treatment he received from the police and prison wardens throughout.

Only after his release he realised how much support he had received from the community while in prison. “I never knew what was happening outside, it was an amazing realisation that so many people had remembered me.”

Wingrave said some people asked him if now he was more grateful for what he has.

“I have always been grateful for what I have so that has not changed. The word ‘relieved’ does not cover it. I’m totally euphoric,” he said.

Tereasa Dias

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