All the signs were there – the controlling behaviour, the jealousy and the violent mood swings – but at just 19 years old, Nortessa Montgomerie had no idea just how much she had to fear from ex-boyfriend Nathan Boulter. Nortessa had to use her wits and cunning to escape the clutches of Boulter (now 23), who subjected her to 36 hours of hell on Great Barrier Island in January 2011.
Police have hailed Nortessa (now 21) as an inspiration to others for making it out of the dense bush alive after the relentless attack from Boulter. He has now been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for nine charges, including kidnapping and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. It is only now that Nortessa can reveal the painful details of her ordeal.
On the night of the attack, Nortessa was babysitting her little brother and his friend at her dad’s house in Medlands. She and her new boyfriend, Mike, were chatting on her bed. She had a protection order against her violent ex Boulter, who she was with for several months in 2010, and felt safe on the isolated island.
Unbeknownst to Nortessa, Boulter had boarded a ferry to Great Barrier using a fake name and hitched a ride to her father’s house. He crept barefoot into the home and was now hiding under her bed. “I was sitting there talking to Mike, then all of a sudden there was a smack to the back of my head and I was knocked out,” she recalls.
“When I came to, Mike was at the end of the bed and I could see a dark figure beating him with a long piece of wood. “I stumbled back and turned the light on. And it's Nathan! "He really enjoyed the look on my face. He said, ‘Are you happy to see me?’ “I really thought I was going to die. I started running down the hallway to get to the phone, but it was dead.”
Nortessa says Boulter grabbed her by her hair and snarled, “I’m going to teach sluts like you a lesson.” He then dragged her outside through a gravel yard and snatched a grubber (similar to a garden hoe) – the weapon he would use to hold her hostage. He marched Nortessa into the dense bush behind the property and made her hide when they heard cars coming. “He told me I hurt him and he was going to kill me because nobody does that to him.”
During this time, Nortessa was pleading with Boulter, wanting to know if her boyfriend and the children were safe. “He said, ‘I killed them. I killed all three of them.’ At that point I wanted him to kill me.” On the first night, Boulter held Nortessa captive with the grubber close by.
The following day, Boulter told her he wanted to steal a boat and take her away from the island. Nortessa came up with an escape plan to lead him back to her father’s house instead. On the way to the boat, Nortessa was subjected to the most frightening attack yet.
When she heard a helicopter and dogs barking, she began sobbing loudly. Boulter took off his shirt, wrapped it around her neck and started to strangle her. “The next thing I know, I’m out,” she remembers. “When I came to, I couldn’t talk properly because the front of my brain had haemorrhaged.
“After that, something clicked with me and I realised the only way I was going to get out was pretend that I still loved him because that’s all he wanted. “I gave him this hug, which made me sick, and through stuttering I was telling him that I loved him and wanted to be with him. I convinced him to drop the grubber and said we were going to run away.”
When they emerged from the bush, they saw rescuers. Boulter made her hold his hand, thinking she was going to stay with him. “It was like the suspense at the end of the movie because he didn’t think I would tell on him,” she recalls. But Nortessa broke free from Boulter and ran towards her rescuers, sobbing with relief.
The attacks left her with a bald patch at the back of her head. She was bruised and battered, had a chipped skull and ribs, and her eyes were blood red as a result of being strangled. It was a month before Nortessa stopped stuttering. Boulter also dropped the grubber on her foot, which has left a permanent scar.
She’s still got the support of her boyfriend Mike, who recovered from the head injuries he received in the attack. While Boulter has gone to jail for his crimes, Nortessa continues to be haunted by the effects of the kidnapping. “If someone knocks at the door and I’m by myself, I won’t answer it,” she says. “It’s slowly getting better, but you can’t put a time on healing.”
Escaping the past
Nortessa’s relationship with Nathan Boulter moved fast – so fast they were living together in Auckland within a week of meeting. But soon the signs that she was in an abusive relationship began to show. “He would not let me out of my house when my friends arrived. He was extremely jealous,” Nortessa recalls. Two months into their relationship, she says Boulter also become abusive towards her friends – but still Nortessa stayed with him.
“At this point my friends started drifting away. They were worried about their own safety and I absolutely understand that. “People were seeing bruises on my arm because he would pull me around like a rag doll. ”
After being invited to a fellow student’s housewarming and saying she’d have to check with Boulter, Nortessa had a wake-up call. “She pointed out that I had to ask permission to go to a house warming with a 50-year-old woman. She said I needed to get out and that triggered something in me.”
After escaping from their apartment with the help of her family, Nortessa tried to forget him, but he continued to call and tracked her down to a friend’s home in Kerikeri. Despite protests from her friends, Nortessa took him back and agreed to go to Southland with Boutler to visit his family. The visit turned sour when he became jealous.
“I made a comment about a celebrity being good looking and all hell broke loose,” she says. “He started picking me up and throwing me against the wall.” The following day, Nortessa went with Boulter’s mother to the police station. “Women’s Refuge was called and I thought I’d never have to see him again. They bought me a cellphone so I could get hold of my family and Nathan didn’t know the number.”
After leaving the refuge, she moved to Great Barrier, and although he managed to find her there, Nortessa remains on the island with the support of her partner and family. She urges other women in abusive situations to find the strength to leave.
“Don’t ignore the signs or sugar-coat anything. If you stay there, you’re going to be with the same man with the same issues – but in 10 years time it’s going to be harder to get out. “Women like to fix things but sometimes people are just bad and you can’t fix them.”
For advice and support about domestic violence call the Women’s Refuge Crisis Line: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843