Man cleared of rape after casual sexual encounter

In a judgement handed down on Friday, a 45-year-old man was declared not guilty of the rape of a 26-year-old woman at his St. Julian’s apartment

A man has been acquitted of rape charges in view of a lack of medical evidence and inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s testimony, the court ruled that the woman had consented and had later regretted her choices.

In a judgement handed down earlier today, Murat Durmaz, a 45-year-old Turkish national, was declared not guilty of the rape of a 26-year-old Swedish woman at his St. Julian’s apartment.

The alleged victim had testified to having possibly met the accused outside a bar in Paceville on October 7, 2017, after having had a few beers. She was tired and wanted to go home - a ten-minute walk away from the bar - and the accused walked with her. The woman recalled the man telling her that he was gay and that she had asked him several times whether this was true as she already had a boyfriend.

While walking the woman home, Durmaz had told her that he lived in a nearby penthouse and invited her for a drink on his terrace. She said she remembered accepting, although she was already drunk at that time. 

She drank some vodka mixed with a soft drink while the pair made small talk.

The accused had switched on the jacuzzi, she said, adding that she had dipped her toe in it but didn’t remember much about what happened after that. 

The woman’s next memory was being in the man’s bed with him on top of her, taking off her underwear. She said he had proceeded to begin sexual intercourse with her, despite her telling him that this was rape and asking him to stop. Her attempts to scream for help were stifled by the accused, who, she claimed, had also held a knife to her throat.

She said she remembered picking up her bag and running downstairs to the front door, which was locked. The accused had followed her downstairs with her clothes and gave her €20 to get a cab home. She filed a police report at 7am the next day.

Although a court-appointed DNA expert reported finding the accused’s DNA inside the woman’s body and on her underwear, A medical examination conducted shortly after she filed her police report had found no bruising or other physical indications of sexual assault.

The accused also testified, telling the court that the woman had initiated the sexual encounter and afterwards, had told him to give her a massage. After doing so, he said, he had gone to the bathroom to wash his hands. When he returned, the woman had dressed herself, he said. She had then asked him for €500 if he wanted to have another sexual encounter with her. This request had made him uncomfortable and so he excused himself and went to the bathroom in the hope that she would leave. 

Durmaz told the court that when he emerged, he had noted that one of his two mobile phones, which he had been charging, was missing, together with the €20 note that had been underneath it. He had caught the lift downstairs to try and find the woman, meeting her right as she descended the last flight of stairs. An argument broke out during which the woman had placed the missing phone inside her top and demanded €500 for it. The man put his hand down her top and retrieved the phone from inside it. The woman told him that she was going to report him to the police, but he had ignored her and had walked on towards Balluta, he said.

He had exhibited evidence of a Facebook friend request that he had received from the alleged victim, explaining that he was doing so in view of the fact that the woman had told the court that she did not know him.

The court carried out a detailed examination of jurisprudence and legal doctrines on the issue of rape, sexual violence and consent in the context of intoxication, before proceeding to carry out an evaluation of the credibility of the testimony, in an effort to establish whether the encounter had been consensual or not.

The magistrate observed that the initial police report notes her as insisting that “she was not drunk and that she was responsible for her action. The complainant insisted that all she wanted was to be examined by a doctor to see whether she was in good health or not, and also signed a waiver that she is not interested in criminal proceedings.” Minutes later, the woman told another police officer, that she had been drunk and that the accused had forced her to have sex with him.

Delivering judgement, Magistrate Joe Mifsud noted several contradictions in the woman’s account, stating that the alleged victim had been selective in her recollection of events. The woman had described the layout of the accused’s apartment in great detail, said the magistrate. ”But then her account strangely stops at the moment when she had been in the jacuzzi on the accused’s balcony…She says that afterwards, she found herself in the bedroom with the accused on top of her and then recalls every detail of what happened in bed. However, she does not provide the slightest detail about how from the jacuzzi she had ended up in the bedroom.”

The magistrate said he found it hard to believe the woman’s claim of having resisted the accused, particularly in view of her allegation that he had held a knife to her throat. The knife was not identified or seized as evidence from the accused’s apartment.

The court also noted that the accused had indicated, during one of his statements to the police, that sexual intercourse had taken place, disproving the parte civile’s assertion to the contrary.

These factors, taken together with the absence of bruising to her private parts consistent with forced penetration or any scratches or marks supporting her claim to have been grabbed by the throat, led the magistrate to doubt that Durmaz forced the girl to have sex with him.

“Although she was under the influence of alcohol, this court does not believe that the parte civile was in such a state of intoxication that made it impossible for her to resist the accused’s sexual advances. She was capable of deciding what she wanted to do…Afterwards, the parte civile had a change of heart about what she had done and consented to.” 

Durmaz was declared not guilty of all charges.

The Court imposed a ban on the publication of the woman’s name.

Inspectors Paula Ciantar and Matthew Spagnol prosecuted, while lawyers Franco Debono and Marion Camilleri represented Durmaz. Lawyer Alfred Abela represented the woman as parte civile.