A former Team GB Olympian told his fiancée to kill herself before dragging her away from the edge of their balcony with so much force that she fractured her skull.
Swimmer James Disney-May, 30, who was part of the 100m freestyle relay team at the London Olympics in 2012, was arguing with Eleanor Cooke over a £9,000 rent bill for their £1million 12th-floor flat. The city worker unintentionally caused the injuries as he pulled her over a glass balcony railing, Kingston Crown Court heard.
Cooke is believed to have hit her head on the floor during the incident on July 1 this year, causing multiple skull fractures and two bleeds on the brain.
The incident, which took place at the flat where the pair lived in the Battersea Power Station development in London, left her with a permanent loss of hearing in her right ear. She also suffered bruising on her face, neck and chin.
Disney-May, who attended the private school Millfield in Somerset, admitted GBH in November. He was handed a 21-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months at a sentencing hearing on Monday morning (December 19), with a four-month tagged curfew.
It means he will be released from prison, where he has been on remand for the last six months.
The court heard that, in the months before the attack, the former swimmer was going out most nights drinking and taking drugs – and feared losing his “very high-paying job in the city”.
Prosecutor James Lofthouse said Disney-May had a “high opinion of himself” and that, while the relationship was “largely loving”, he was “belittling” towards Miss Cooke.
The court heard he would threaten to leave his partner, calling her “lazy, stupid, disgusting and useless” as well as a “problem woman”.
Mr Lofthouse said the pair had been out for drinks and dinner on July 1 and returned to their flat, owned by Miss Cooke's parents, at around 11.30pm.
He said: “Both were in a good mood, both had had a drink. She recalled that morning she had left a note about paying rent. Despite his means and income they now owed £8,000 to £9,000 to her parents.
“She believed she probably brought this up again and this was what led him to lose his temper. He called her a whore and slapped her. She mentions that is when she decided to start an audio recording on her phone.
“What was said over that 40 minutes makes for very difficult listening. Over the course of the recording we say Mr Disney-May can be heard to slap Miss Cooke again. He mercilessly and maliciously belittled, goaded and abused her.”
The court heard he told Miss Cooke: “You can go on holiday and jump off a f***ing cliff for someone else. You can’t meet many people who want you. You will be dead in a week killing yourself.
“See you later, f***ing jump off. Everyone will laugh as you jump, everyone will literally laugh as you jump. No one will remember you. No one will give a f*** about you.”
Mr Lofthouse said it was “foreseeable” Miss Cooke would react by dangling herself off their balcony as it was “merely what he goaded her to do”.
Worried neighbours heard Miss Cooke repeatedly shouting “Shall I go then?” and called 999. By the time police arrived, Miss Cooke had been dragged off the balcony, leaving a trail of blood through the flat.
On the audio recording, Disney-May can be heard asking Miss Cooke what to do when police are knocking on the door, saying: “F*** it’s the police. What should we do? I’m not opening it.”
When officers were eventually let in, she was found lying on the bed with her hair matted with blood, the court heard.
In a statement, Miss Cooke said: “James was a trusted member of my family who my mother and father took in as one of their own and he has completely betrayed that trust.
“The incident was a complete shock to me. I was completely in love with James, we were engaged and I trusted him implicitly. When I woke up in the hospital, I didn’t believe hospital staff or police who told me I was the victim of domestic violence.
“Even though I can’t remember the incident, the consequences of it will live with me for the rest of my life.
“I have anxiety about going out and meeting new people as I have paranoia about people knowing what happened and asking me questions about it. I have trust issues and am fearful about being out on my own.
“I have concerns for any future personal relationships as I have lost a lot of faith in men in general. I think James will be a constant threat to me and my family. He comes from a very privileged background and had a very well paid job in the city.
“This will affect his life going forward and I’m worried he will blame me and carry out some retribution towards me and my family.
"We were in a loving relationship when this happened. If he is able to do this to someone he loves then I dread to think what he can do to someone he doesn’t like.”
Sentencing him, Judge John Lodge said: “He mocked her life, he mocked her attractiveness, he mocked her past and he did not hold out a great deal of hope for her future.”
A restraining order banning Disney-May from contacting Miss Cooke was also made and he was ordered to pay £2,000 towards prosecution costs.
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