If you visited Balmoral, a rural town about a four hour drive from Melbourne, you’d likely be struck by how quiet it is.
With a population of little more than 200, the town curls around the banks of the Glenelg River, with river red gums coating the surrounding countryside.
You don’t get much more quintessentially Australian than that.
But within it, among the idyllic fishing, swimming and camping spots, is a case that has broken the sleepy town.
A young woman has left, swearing never to return. She’s stayed hundreds of kilometres away, afraid to even revisit Victoria.
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And two men are being fiercely defended by their community who filled the seats of a courtroom.
In 2016, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, attended a 21st birthday party in Balmoral.
Two of her friends, Shaun Bloomfield and Luke Merryfull, were also in attendance.
During the night, the two men, now 24, propositioned her for a ‘threesome’ inside a caravan where she had planned to sleep.
“Absolutely no way,” the woman said, according to testimony heard in the Victorian County Court earlier this month. Her prosecutor, Daryl Brown, told the court, “she said that [‘no’] throughout the ordeal”.
The woman wrapped herself in a blanket in an attempt to avoid the two men.