Growing up in Victoria in the 1960s and early 1970s, Marita was always good at sport, competing both at school and outside. In her mid-teens she joined a club run by Norman Krell, a former champion athlete and highly regarded coach.
Krell quickly took an interest in Marita and often gave her one-on-one training, what she called ‘his style of grooming me’. She remembered him putting his hands all over her body while he moved her into unusual positions.
One night after training, when Marita’s parents were busy, Krell offered to drive her home. When she opened the car door there was a heavy toolbox on the bench seat, so she had to sit close to the driver’s side.
In a statement provided to the Royal Commission Marita wrote, ‘When he got into the car he said to me, “Are you still sweet 16 and never been kissed?” He immediately started to kiss me and grope at my breasts. He was breathing heavily and I pushed him back. I was very scared and felt that I could not do anything.’
Marita is still surprised she managed to stop the abuse. ‘I still, to this day, I swear there was an angel on my shoulder with what I said. Because I said to him something to the effect of, “Norman, my parents will come looking for me”, something as if to say … “You’re the one that’s at risk here” … And he immediately took his hands off my breasts … I can still see his hands go on the steering wheel, I’ll never forget that …
‘When he finally dropped me off at home – Mum and Dad had guests – and I stood in the shower until there was no hot water. And we weren’t allowed to have long showers … I can remember standing in the shower and just constantly cleaning my teeth.’
Marita never went back to training with Krell, and made up an excuse when her parents asked why she’d stopped so abruptly. ‘I never told Dad because I was terrified my father would go around and, you know, stranglehold him. And in my mind, as a child, I thought, “Well, my dad’s no match for him” …
‘But I didn’t want my parents to know that I had some sexual awareness of what he was doing. It was more that I had a sense of shame … ’
The next time Marita saw Krell was when she competed at the club’s end-of-year event. All the other girls had left and she was alone in the changing room.
‘He came straight in and stood at the door. And I screamed at him, I just swore at him to just get out. And I can remember he just put his hands up and said, “All right, all right” like this and sort of turned round and walked away. And I was terrified … your mind just went, “Who’s left in the building? Am I just here by myself?”
‘So I just got out of the door and ran ... And he never approached me, I didn’t look back, I got out of there and Mum was in the car park to pick me up …
‘And that was the end of it and I’ve never seen him or heard from him since.’
As she got older, Marita never felt safe. ‘I don’t think I was able to stay in the house by myself until I was probably in my late 30s. Mum and Dad had a farm and I had a junior gun licence … I used to go to the gun cabinet, get a gun out, load it, take it off safety and sit there watching television. I mean, it’s crazy behaviour now.
‘And then when I heard the car come up the driveway I’d quickly run, take the bullets out of the breach – I’d load both barrels on the double shotgun – and put the gun back and quickly run back and sit down in the sunroom as though I was just watching television …
‘If my husband went away Dad would have to come around and stay with me. I suppose Dad thought that was just, “My little girl just likes me to be around” sort of thing, but it wasn’t … It’s just that I felt safer with Dad being in the house. Or someone being in the house with me.’
In the early 1990s the Victorian police started a community awareness campaign against child sexual abuse. Marita reported Norman Krell because she was worried he might still be coaching. She never heard back and was never asked to make a formal statement.
It wasn’t until the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games that Marita thought about Krell again. ‘To some extent I’d pretty much forgotten … not that I’d forgotten what’d happened, I just no longer paid attention to it. And then after having had my own children … I think it really drives it home then, when you’ve got your own children, to what’s going on with yourself.’
When she googled Krell Marita said she was horrified. ‘Once I saw his picture it was like, “That’s him”. His arms around kids … and I thought, “Oh my God, you’ve had complete and unfettered access to kids for a very long time”, and that really worried me …
‘Once I found all that information … I was going to confront him. Or do something on some level.’
She never got the chance. By the time Marita was ready to face Krell, he was dead.
Since then she’s devoted her time to her family and career. But there was one more step on Marita’s journey. ‘When the Commission came through I thought, well, you never know … I got off relatively scot-free I think by comparison … there might very well be others out there that didn’t. And if my story adds some weight to anybody else’s story ...’