Man denies rape charge after Paceville encounter with 15-year-old student

22-year-old charged with the rape and defilement of a 15-year-old language student whom he had met in Paceville on Saturday night

File photo
File photo

A 22-year-old man has been charged with the rape and defilement of a 15-year-old language student whom he had met in Paceville on Saturday night.

Humair Yaqoob from Pakistan was arraigned before magistrate Victor Axiak on Monday afternoon. 

Inspectors Joseph Busuttil and Zachary Zammit, assisted by Prosecutors Darlene Grima and Danica Vella from the Office of the Attorney General, accused Yaqoob of engaging in non-consensual sex with the minor, participating in sexual activities with a person under 16 years of age and defilement of a minor.

Giving an overview of what had led to the man’s arrest, Inspector Busuttil told the court that yesterday the police station at St. Julians’ had been informed that a 15-year-old girl had been raped and that her friends were trailing the suspect, as they waited for the police to turn up and apprehend him.

The inspector said that investigations revealed that the victim had come to Malta from Switzerland to study English. She had met the accused in a bar in Paceville, and subsequently accompanied him to a quiet spot somewhere between Pembroke and St. Julian’s.  There, the two had started kissing, and as the encounter became more intense, at one point the accused had penetrated the girl, allegedly against her will.

Yaqoob had been arrested on site, after the girl’s friends had followed him in order to prevent him from being lost in the crowded nightlife district.

During questioning, the accused had told the police that he had been having sex with the girl but that he had stopped when she had asked him to. He added that he had been told that she was 16 years of age.

From the dock on Monday Yaqoob told the court that he was only visiting Malta and had no employment here.

His lawyer, David Bonello, informed the court that the accused was pleading not guilty to the charges.

Inspector Busuttil exhibited two police reports and the audio-visual statements released by the accused during his interrogation, together with the accused’s Italian residence permit.

Bonello requested bail, also requesting the prosecution ensure that CCTV footage from the club is preserved, together with the accused’s internet search history. Inspector Busuttil replied that the footage was already being reviewed by an expert appointed to the inquiry and that the man’s mobile phone was also being examined.

Busuttil expressed surprise at the defence’s request for bail, pointing out that there were three minors who were slated to testify in the next sitting, as soon as the case is allotted a magistrate. The accused had no ties to Malta, submitted the inspector, adding that his

Italian residence permit had been issued after he had entered Italy illegally and spent some time in a closed detention centre. 

Yaqoob had told the police that he had come to Malta to find work and was currently living with a friend in Birkirkara. There was a great fear that he would abscond, said the inspector.

Bonello replied that this was not “an open and shut case,” and that there was a possibility that the alleged victim might have initially consented to the encounter, but had subsequently withdrawn it. “The fear of absconding does not come simply because he is a foreign national with no ties to Malta, as had been repeatedly stated by the superior courts, even recently,” added the lawyer, stressing that it is in the accused’s interest to prove his innocence, adding that this is something which the accused wanted to happen.

The alleged victim and her friends are also foreigners and have no ties to Malta, added the lawyer, highlighting the fact that his client had no prior contact with the girl or her friends before the incident.

“It is not contested that they met in a club. In order to enter a club, one has to prove that they are of age,” pointed out the lawyer.

The court, however ruled that there was a real risk of the accused stultifying the proceedings if the accused were to be granted bail, as he had no ties to the islands and therefore constituted an objective flight risk. Noting that the prosecution had also bound itself to submit the testimonies of the minors involved in this case by the date of the next sitting, the court rejected the bail request at this stage.