Man who claimed hearing demonic voice on trial for raping woman and abusing her daughter

The trial without jury of a man accused of raping a vulnerable woman and forcing her to have sex with her daughter kicks off

The accused took advantage of the older woman's beliefs in the occult
The accused took advantage of the older woman's beliefs in the occult

Updated at 3:15pm with police inspectors' testimony 

A man has gone on trial accused of raping a vulnerable woman and causing her and her daughter, at the time his girlfriend, to perform sexual acts against their will.

The disturbing case dates back to 2019 and the man, who is from Bormla, was 18 at the time.

He had been charged with violent indecent assault on a person who was unable to resist, holding the women against their will, forcing them to perform acts contrary to their decency and slightly injuring them. He was further accused of causing his girlfriend’s sister and her mother to fear violence and of participating in sexual activities with a 15-year-old girl in the same family - his girlfriend at the time.

During the arraignment, the court was told that the 15 year-old girl had contacted the police after living with the accused’s family for some months, reporting that the accused had been violent towards her and exhibited controlling behaviour.

The older woman was a regular dabbler in the occult, the court had been told, and the accused would allegedly take advantage of her beliefs by saying that she had opened the door to the devil. An exorcist had later testified to not having heard or seen any paranormal activity when he had gone to bless the house, at the mother’s request. He had described the collection of incidents as “a confused case.”

During the initial hearings, it emerged that he would manipulate the woman, giving her all types of commands, ranging from the simple to the sexual. The court had been told that the man would command the girl to have sex with her mother.

The man’s defence lawyers at the time had suggested that the mother was mentally ill and had been admitted to Mount Carmel Hospital dozens of times. The defence opted for a trial without a jury.

Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, presiding over the trial, imposed a reporting ban on the names of all the involved parties.

Lawyer Mario Mifsud is defence counsel.

Lawyers Angele Vella and Francesco Refalo from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.

Police inspectors testify

The man is accused of aggravated rape, forcing one person to rape another, illegally detaining persons in order to subject them to acts offensive to their modesty, threatening violence against the victims’ ascendants or descendants and participating in sexual activities with a minor.

The first witness, Police Inspector Oriana Spiteri, testified that the younger victim - the accused’s girlfriend, who had been 15 years old at the time - had admitted to having perjured herself - a crime for which she had been punished in separate proceedings - because of her fear of the accused.

Mifsud cross-examined the witness, asking her amongst other things, who had taken the decision not to call for a magisterial inquiry, “was it yours, Inspector Hayman’s or the AG’s?” Inspector Spiteri replied that she was under the impression that an inquiry had taken place.

Inspector Hayman, as lead investigator, also testified this morning.

He had only recently started his career with the police force at the time and had been stationed at Cospicua. Hayman had been told that two social workers had concluded the younger daughter was at a high risk of abuse. The accused had been in a relationship with her sister and was living with them, he explained.

The complainant had moved out of the family home and was living with her paternal grandfather, because of her anxiety, he said. “She had identified herself as the victim, and wanted shelter. She was in a very emotional state and couldn’t be spoken to.” Police and social workers had gone to the family home and spoken to the accused, who was subsequently arrested.

Accused says he was instructed by a ‘deep demonic voice’

Inspector Hayman had interrogated the accused. “In view of this, I had given disclosure on domestic violence, as that was the only suspicion at the time,” he explained.

“He had given a long eulogy about the devil and the house…during his daily activities in the house, he would act normally but then this deep demonic voice would give him instructions,” recalled the inspector.

The victim had told a social worker that she had returned to live with her mother in December 2018. Strange things would happen, lights going out and objects being thrown around, the girl said. At first the voice would command her to do menial tasks, like cleaning, but this later progressed to her and her mother undressing in front of each other. “On one occasion, the women were ordered to lie face down on the floor…throwing water on them. Then the ‘demon’ had told them to “switch the fan on speed 3”, which the inspector said he thought was a somewhat ridiculous order for a powerful spirit to make.

Another time, the mother was ordered to lie naked on a table and had ordered the daughter to sexually assault the woman with a broom handle, he said. “This ‘broke’ the girl,” who refused to comply, the inspector said. The accused had then taken over and committed the assault himself while the mother screamed in pain.”

In other incidents, the voice had purportedly also ordered the mother and her husband to have sex on the dining room table while being filmed, he said.

The inspector had spoken to the mother at Mount Carmel Hospital, where she had explained her occult beliefs, as well as her daughter’s accounts of groping and sex abuse at the hands of the accused. The voice had commanded her to buy puppies to convince her other daughter to move in with them, the inspector recalled the woman as saying.

“In her account, the mother always expressed her belief that the devil was taking the form of the accused. She would see him [the accused] performing the acts but to her, he was a quiet boy.”

The first time she heard the voice was on 15 August 2018, when it commanded her to tell her daughter to move back in with them.

Victim had ‘long-standing occult beliefs’

Inspector Hayman explained the mother’s background to the judge. The woman had strong long-standing occult beliefs and would often use voodoo dolls, dancing rods and take part in other occult practices. “She had been doing this for 10 years but no demon had ever spoken to her. Until the accused moved in, that is.”

An exorcist had told the court of magistrates that in his opinion, the woman needed psychological help more than exorcism but had celebrated mass at the house to assuage her fears, added the inspector.

The accused was subsequently arrested and given his rights. When the police escorted him to his house to observe the search, the accused had started shaking and said he was terrified of the devil. The police had calmed him down and then proceeded to carry out the search. “In the room where the accused used to sleep, there was nothing. No PlayStation, nothing. I had asked the accused about this and he said that he had cleared it out at the devil’s behest,” Inspector Hayman said.

At least 7 brooms and mops were seized and passed on to forensic experts. They were exhibited in court.

Inspector Hayman said he had taken the decision not to request a magisterial inquiry at the time. “I didn’t request an inquiry because I had difficulty in identifying what evidence I would ask the inquiring magistrate to gather. I made that decision. The Vice Squad had advised me that there were grounds for charges, however,” Hayman said, adding that he had also sought advice from the Attorney General’s Office.

The accused had been interrogated in the presence of his lawyer at the time, Jason Azzopardi.

Inspector Hayman recalled that the accused played football and was very good at making trick shots hit the uprights, a very difficult feat. His football coach had told the police that the accused had not attended any sporting activities or training from the time that the younger victim had moved in.

The accused’s mother had ended up in Mount Carmel after attempting suicide by overdosing on pills. The mother was unable to cope with the torment, said the inspector. She later realised that the accused had been making the voice, the court was told.

Inspector Hayman added that he had been informed that even after her hospitalisation, the accused was still calling the mother up regularly at Mount Carmel. Staff there noted that she would be very flustered and disturbed after the calls and had subsequently stopped passing on phone calls from the accused, he said.

During interrogation, the accused had told inspector Hayman that he had been telling the girl's mother not to mention “the sex things” - at which point the inspector had pointed out that the man was only being investigated for domestic violence at that point. The accused had seemed confused when told this, recalled the inspector.

The police inspector had ordered the seizure of various laptops and electronic devices from the accused, as well as the house, he said.

Prosecutor Francesco Refalo asked the inspector about what the accused had told the police after speaking to his lawyer. “He was telling me that I had arrested him for nothing…He was denying everything. This was after speaking to his lawyer.”

“The accused had insisted that the demon was still in the house and started shaking at the threshold, but at the same time, he still lived in the house, too,” Inspector Hayman recalled.

The court was told that the family’s three dogs were free to roam around the house and would defecate everywhere. “There was some neglect,” said the inspector. “The floor hadn’t been washed for some time, the wardrobes smelled like they hadn’t been opened for a long time.”

Inspector: Sexual acts performed by the mother and the daughter at the accused’s orders

The daughter had initially believed the accused’s claims in full, but had later noticed that the demonic voice would not speak when he wasn’t around. “It had started to slowly dawn on her that the demon was in fact, the accused,”

The girl had noted that the demonic voice used the same figures of speech as those used by the accused, the inspector added.

In his first statement, the accused had acknowledged that ‘some things’ had taken place when he was present, but denied that the voice was his, explained the witness.

He said the accused had eventually accepted that there was a voice, but had denied that it was him. The accused had also denied the allegations of violence and sexual abuse.

Answering a question asked by the judge, the inspector confirmed that there had also been sexual acts performed by the mother and the daughter at the accused’s orders.

The police had been shown the pornographic video of the girl’s parents on the girl’s mobile phone. A complete digital clone of the device was later extracted by a police expert and was exhibited in the acts said the inspector.

The judge asked the witness why the father’s testimony had not been recorded in the compilation of evidence. “There was a time that I could not trace him. When we finally tracked him down, he said that he would be ordered to leave the house by the demonic voice before any actions took place, besides the sex video.”

Neither were the police able to trace the family friend mentioned by the defence, said the inspector, who also confirmed that the grandfather had not been asked to testify during the compilation of evidence, either.

Troubled family life in the spotlight

Cross-examined by Mifsud, the inspector said that he had only recently started his police career at the time he investigated the case. The lawyer suggested that the AG had not been consulted about the inquiry. The inspector confirmed that he had consulted with the AG only at the time of the arraignment.

He pressed the witness as to why no magisterial inquiry had been requested. “I didn’t feel that I should bother a magistrate on something that was so unclear,” replied the inspector.

Mifsud asked whether the inspector had felt the need to gather more evidence than broomsticks, such as a recorder mentioned by the mother. Inspector Hayman said he had encountered a ouija board but had not seized it. Neither had fingerprints been collected from the house’s circuit breaker in a bid to establish who would switch it off. “It would have been useless,” replied the inspector. 

He acknowledged that the first interrogation had not been recorded on video, but said that disclosure had been given to the accused before the second interrogation. The actual disclosure of evidence was not recorded on video, however. “I gave disclosure in full but I don’t record giving disclosure on tape. Not even today.”

The lawyer pointed out that a Satanic priest, who would perform fortune telling services for the mother, had not been spoken to by the police, despite being identified. Mifsud suggested that neither had the police spoken to the father, nor the grandfather.