Paceville rapist sentenced to nine years in jail

Man handed lengthy prison sentence after DNA evidence helped a court convict him of raping a woman in a Paceville car park

FIle photo
FIle photo

A man has been handed a lengthy prison sentence after DNA evidence helped a court convict him of raping a woman in a Paceville car park.

After being arrested in 2018, Eyob Melake Ecobagaber, 31, from Eritrea had been charged with engaging in non-consensual sex with the woman, detaining her against her will, slightly injuring her, recidivism and committing an offence during the operative period of a conditional discharge which he had received for cannabis possession earlier this month.

In a judgement handed down today, Ecobagaber was found guilty of all charges, bar that of recidivism, and sentenced to nine years in jail by magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on Monday. He was also ordered to pay €3,903.47 in costs.

Ecobagaber had been apprehended by police after they found his victim crying in the car park of what used to be the Axis discotheque, during the night of 23 May 2018. 

The victim had given the police a description of her assailant, saying she had bitten him on the face to defend herself. The accused was later spotted and tried to escape police before being taken into custody with the help of bystanders. The victim identified her assailant at the police station.

She had told the police that she had been approached by a French man, who struck up a conversation with her as she walked towards a parking lot in Paceville. The French man had signalled to the accused to join them and then grabbed the woman, raping her on the bonnet of a car, before dragging her into a space between parked vehicles and holding her down as the accused raped her. 

The victim had also testified about the incident in court.

Medical examination determined that the woman had in fact been raped and had suffered injuries as a result of the violent attack.

The victim had consistently told the police and the court that the accused had forced himself on her and that she had escaped after biting him and hitting him with one of her high heeled shoes.

A court-appointed DNA expert found traces of the accused’s DNA on the victim’s underwear.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech noted that the evidence did not support the accused’s claim that the victim had started hitting him with her shoe for no reason. Medical evidence also disproved the defendant’s claim to have punched the victim in the face, knocking her to the ground.

The magistrate also noted that the accused had been found to have cuts and abrasions on his face which tallied with the victim’s claim of having tried to defend herself with her shoe.

Although Ecobagaber had a previous conviction for which he had been fined, he had never actually paid the fine, which meant that he had never served his sentence and could therefore not be considered a recidivist, the court pointed out, emphasising the importance of the court administration ensuring that court judgments be enforced as soon as the appeal period ends. 

“Otherwise an injustice against society would be committed,” said the magistrate.

In her considerations on the punishment to be meted out, the magistrate took into account the grave nature of the crimes with which the man had been convicted as well as the fact that he had never shown any form of remorse for his actions.

In its judgment, jailing the accused, the court also condemned the rape as a “cowardly and vile act,” and the accused as a person who picked on the vulnerable, without concern towards the potential life-long mental and emotional scars he inflicted on the victim. 

“A person raped is a person disfigured for life, and the court is duty bound to ensure that crimes of this nature are condemned with the severity they deserve,” the court said. 

Senior Inspector Nikolai Sant prosecuted. Lawyer Frank Cassar was defence counsel.

Lawyers Giannella De Marco and Margo Zammit Fiorentino represented the victim.