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December 20, 2013
by: CANDACE SUTTON
MURAT Col was in a fit of rage.
The Sydney real estate agent who loved luxury and “elegance” had come home from a work barbecue and flown into a temper at his girlfriend, Maryanne Scott.
He took a bottle of methylated spirits from a cupboard and threatened to burn her alive.
By midnight an ambulance would be taking her, shaking and in agony from full thickness burns, to a hospital intensive care unit where she was put on life support.
But in a turn around which shocked friends and later a criminal court, Ms Scott said she had forgiven Col.
The case of Murat Col and Maryanne Scott has eerie echoes of the case of Simon Gittany, who threw girlfriend Lisa Harnum off a balcony in a fit of rage, and who then sat through a murder trial with the loving support of his new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise.
Ms Scott and Col both told a NSW court he didn’t mean to hurt her.
Scarred for life and suffering from ongoing pain, Ms Scott said of her attacker during the 2011 trial, she “loves him and plans to marry him”.
Three judges of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal this month rejected Col’s case and he will be behind bars for up to a decade, with his full sentence expiring in 2021.
Like Gittany, Col was a 38-year-old man with a taste for the finer things in life, and had a positive future until his violent actions towards his girlfriend brought his world crashing down around him.
And like Gittany, he had a violent past.
In 2009, Col had achieved his dream of opening his own real estate office.
The former wine salesman had been working in the real estate industry for 16 years, selling houses in Sydney’s southwest which he marketed to buyers as “like a palace” with “lavish bathrooms” and “a masterpiece with a pool”.
In 2006, he told a local newspaper he dedicated himself to being sincere with his clients.
“It gives me great satisfaction to provide them with honest, practical advice that will see them to the other side of a property transaction. That’s why I do what I do,” he said.
In private, Col had begun taking anti-depressants following his separation from his wife, a teacher with whom he has two teenage children.
He met Ms Scott, a single mother in her late thirties, and in 2007 they moved in together.
In 2009, Col started injecting steroids.
On August 7, 2009, Col was out at a Friday night barbecue when Ms Scott phoned him around 8.30pm, asking him why he hadn’t come home and accusing him of lying about the presence of women at the function.
Col called Ms Scott several times afterwards but she did not respond and he arrived home at 10pm.
The couple argued about the barbecue and Ms Scott went upstairs, put on her pyjamas and went to bed.
Angry, Col marched up to her room and told her she couldn’t sleep.
He grabbed the waistband of her pyjamas, tearing them as he dragged her out of bed, into the hallway and down the stairs.
Col smashed Ms Scott’s mobile phone and then hit her in the face with the back of his hand.
Ms Scott went back up to bed. She could hear Col downstairs opening and closing cupboards.
When he came upstairs, he told her he was going to burn the bed, the house or “it all down” and she felt liquid being splashed across her.
Ms Scott recognised the liquid as methylated spirits by its smell, jumped up and said “what are you doing” as he flicked a cigarette lighter.
Flames ignited all over Ms Scott and she says she heard Col say, “oh f–k” as she ran into a spare room, tore off her burning jumper and ran back towards the bathroom.
Col carried her to the shower which she stayed under until the flames went out.
She pleaded for him to get help.
At 11.55pm, Col called 000, telling the operator, “methylated spirits got, ah, ignited and we got burnt”.
At midnight, he called 000 again.
In the course of that call he was recorded saying to Ms Scott, “don’t tell the cops please” and Ms Scott is heard replying, “I won’t say anything”.
Col responds, “you’re too good for me”.
When the ambulance arrived, two paramedics asked Ms Scott what happened. She told the senior ambulance officer she had been trying to get away from Mr Col and he had poured “metho” on the bed and set it on fire with a cigarette lighter.
Ms Scott was taken to Concord Hospital in Sydney’s west, where she would undergo three operations in the Intensive Care Unit.
When her sister, Leanne Scott, visited her that evening, the victim was unable to speak because of the breathing tubes down her throat, but she wrote on three pieces of A4 paper, “we had a fight, he had a lighter, he flick it and my clothes went up … I’m not charging him. He didn’t mean it.”
Leanne Scott gave the notes to police.
The next day, a friend, Vicki Faulds, visited Ms Scott, who described in detail what Col had done, but asked her not to say anything.
Ms Scott told two more friends and her son that Col had punched her and doused her in “metho”.
Ms Scott would spent three months in hospital under the care of Burns Unit director, Dr Peter Maitz, who said she would “not have survived without medical intervention”.
She underwent “a very large lifesaving operation” two days after admission.
She was in excruciating pain, with burns to her face, neck, back, thigh, arm and chest.
In a statement to police, which she later said she couldn’t remember, Ms Scott said she was scarred for life and felt “mentally scarred”.
Col was taken into custody for seven days and released on bail.
Initially charged with maliciously wounding with intent to murder, Col was released on bail on charges of causing grievous bodily harm and intent to cause grievous bodily harm, which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years.
With Col set down for trial in July 2011 Ms Scott sent a statement to the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, saying she had been heavily sedated in hospital when her friends and family “told [her] what they thought had happened on the night” and her statement to police was “not the truth”.
In court, and under cross-examination as an unfavourable witness, the judge said it was “very clear [Ms Scott] has forgiven the offender in respect of the events and gave evidence in support of him [although] family members … gave evidence supporting … the original version”.
“My observation was that there existed a tense relationship between Ms Scott and her family as exhibited during the trial,” Lakatos said in his sentence.
Col’s defence was that after returning home from the barbecue he had lit a cigar, bent down to kiss Ms Scott as she slept, then smelt smoke and returned to the bedroom where he had taken a bottle from the tallboy, thinking it was water, poured it on the bed, which then lit up, upon which he grabbed his girlfriend and put her in the shower.
The jury didn’t believe him.
The judge thought Col’s mitigating evidence – of a bad mental state, drug use, depression and post traumatic stress symptoms following two armed hold-ups when he was a teenage service station attendant – missed the point.
“If this reflects his thought processes”, Judge Lakatos said, “the reference to self-esteem in the face of the serious and extensive burn injuries to Ms Scott shows a stunning level of self absorption and a lack of human empathy for the victim of his actions.”
He noted Col had previous criminal charges, a 1996 assault and an offence of stalk and intimidate in 2010 against his ex-wife.
On December 16, 2011 Judge Lakatos sentenced Col to 10 years prison, with an earliest release date of August, 2018.
From jail, Col launched an appeal against his conviction, on the grounds Ms Scott’s original statement to police should not have been used in the trial and a miscarriage of justice had resulted.
The full bench of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal heard the case on August 23 this year.
On October 23, Maryanne Scott posted on her Facebook page: “If EX FRIENDS have a lot of NEGATIVE things to say about you when it ends … that means they were storing up these feelings towards you when y’all were still FRIENDS. ‘wolves in sheep clothing’.”
This month, Justices Megan Latham, Stephen Rothman and David Davies rejected Col’s appeal.
Ms Scott also posted on Facebook: “When you’re around someone so much, for so long, they become a part of you, and when they go away, you don’t know who you are without them.”
Ms Scott did not respond to the news.com.au’s request for an interview.