Man denies molesting two 15-year-old girls on Sliema promenade

He was charged with harassing the two girls, causing them to fear violence, and subjecting them to unwelcome acts with sexual connotations

The accused has been remanded in custody
The accused has been remanded in custody

A homeless man has been remanded in custody after he pleaded not guilty to charges relating to harassing two 15-year-old girls.

Beyene Fessahatsion Weldeabzghi, 31, from Eritrea was arraigned before magistrate Nadine Lia on Wednesday afternoon, accused of molesting two 15-year-old girls, while they were walking along the Sliema promenade.

The court was told that the man had no fixed address in Malta.

Inspector Colin Sheldon charged Weldeabzghi with harassing the two girls, causing them to fear violence, and subjecting them to unwelcome acts with sexual connotations.

He was also charged with being drunk and incapable of taking care of himself in a public place and living an idle and vagrant life. Weldeabzghi was further accused of recidivism.

Inspector Sheldon told the court that the incident took place on 19 July 19 around 5.45pm on Tower Road. The report was filed the next day, reporting a “dark-skinned person harassing two females on Tower road.”

Police only had a photograph of the offender to work on, however, a report came in later of a man matching the description and holding a girl against her will, on the strand. When officers arrived at the scene, he was recognised as the same person wanted over the other incident and was wearing the same clothes.

After explaining the charges to him, the court asked the accused what he intended to plead. His lawyer declared that he would be pleading not guilty. Bail was not requested.

Weldeabzghi has several previous run-ins with the law. In 2016, the man had been charged with damaging private property during a drunken rampage, which is thought to have been triggered by his rejection by a prostitute and later admitted the charges. 

He had also been sentenced to imprisonment for two years and fined €5,000 by a court in Gozo in 2019, after assaulting police officers in Marsalforn and the Gozo General Hospital.

In sentencing the accused, that court had recommended Weldeabzghi for deportation, pointing out that he had been granted refugee status in Malta, but his repeated criminal actions had shown “disdain and utter disrespect” for the country’s laws and that he had repeatedly shown that he refused to abide by the rules.