Woman describes being beaten, ordered to perform sex acts by ‘demon’ who turned out to be her sister's boyfriend

Woman gives harrowing account in court of sexual abuse by sister's boyfriend, who claimed to be acting on demonic instruction

File photo
File photo

This story contains graphic depictions of sexual abuse which some may find disturbing

A woman has given a harrowing account of being repeatedly forced to perform depraved sex acts, together with her mother, by her sister’s boyfriend, who claimed to be acting on demonic instruction.

The sister’s boyfriend, who cannot be named on order of the court, is currently on trial, accused of the aggravated rape of his girlfriend’s vulnerable mother and of forcing her and her daughters to perform sex acts against their will.

A sad picture of opportunistic manipulation emerged in Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera’s courtroom this afternoon, as the first witness testified via video link. Her testimony lasted several hours. 

The woman, now 24 years old, was asked about the police report she had filed. “It was in the beginning of February 2019. I was still living at my parents’ house in Marsaskala. I lived with my mother, my sister who is five years younger than me and at the time [the accused] was living with us too.”

The accused is her sister’s ex-boyfriend, she explained. All of the residents used to sleep in the same room. At the time, her father did not reside with them but with his parents. He would visit them but “not a lot,” she said.

“Before it all started, I used to live with my paternal grandparents. In the months leading up to it we used to hear that there was a demon telling my parents what to do. My father and my sister would tell me this. 

“I didn’t used to visit but when I would meet with my mother, she would look weak. On one occasion I noticed that she had a black eye,” the witness said.

“My sister had asked me to visit as they had just got two pet dogs. It was I think 20 December, 2018. My memory is a bit fragmented. I remember that I had gone to chat with my mother in the dining room, while the accused and my sister were upstairs. 

“Suddenly I heard a voice saying ‘don’t smoke’ to my mother.” The voice sounded like the accused “trying to make a scary voice,” said the witness. “My first question to my mother was: isn’t that [the accused]? She said it sounded like him, but it was, in fact, the devil. I was a bit freaked out and wanted to leave.”

‘Demon’ forced victim to sleep at mother’s home

But the voice evidently had other plans. It said the witness “must sleep here.” “At one point the voice told me that if I left it would kill my grandparents, so I stayed.”

The demands escalated. “It went from [witness’ name] has to sleep here for one night, to she needs to sleep here for one week. I wanted to go, but everyone in the house believed that it was a demon speaking, so I was forced to stay in the house.”

The voice had ordered her to go upstairs and take a shower with her sister. “So we went and we took a shower. We were doing it really fast because I was really scared. Everyone started freaking out and saying that the demon is starting to pour rubbing alcohol under the bathroom door. At this point it's still me and my sister in the bathroom, while the accused and my mother were outside.”

“I started to freak out when I heard them saying that the demon had set fire to a paper cross outside the door.”

The witness’s sister told her to go to her room and lock the room ‘because the demon can’t go through locked doors.’

“At one point the lights went out. I start hearing knives being sharpened outside the door. The voice ordered me to unlock the door or he would start hurting me. My sister and I were together in bed, the lights were still off and my sister was holding on to me. We were still hearing the knives being sharpened behind the door. Then the voice told me to count to three and on the count of three he would slit my throat.”

“Who did you understand would do that to you?” asked the judge. “The demon,” replied the witness. “I remember him saying the phrase: [name] your hour has come. I was begging him to say what I could do instead.”

“I understood that I was going to die. Suddenly we heard the knives fall to the ground and the accused opened the door, rushing into the room. I forgot what he said exactly but it was to the effect that he had just saved us.” 

 Victim blacked out after being forced to drink whiskey

Lawyer Francesco Refalo, prosecuting on behalf of the Attorney General’s office together with lawyer Angele Vella, asked the witness how the door had come to be unlocked. “The voice had told me to unlock the door or he would hurt me,” the witness replied.

The voice then told them to go downstairs.

“He ordered me and my mother to go on the couch in the living room and the voice started saying that we had to drink glasses of whiskey,” she recalled. At the time this happened, the witness, her mother, the accused and her sister had all been at home.

“I think that I had to drink around 5 glasses. It was difficult because I didn’t drink at all. I got drunk very quickly and was terrified. I started saying ‘don’t let me die, don’t let me die.’ I blacked out after that.”

Asked where her father had been during all this, she explained that the voice had ordered him to go sleep at his parents’ house. 

Refalo asked the witness what her father had made of the incident. “My father believed everything. And he didn’t care. He was just scared for himself, basically.” The prosecutor also asked what the witness’ sister had done when she saw her trying to drink the whiskey. “I remember she had asked to water it down, as she felt sorry for me. But she went along with everything that she was being told to do.”

“My last memory was literally them trying to grab me and take me upstairs.”

The following morning, the woman said she had woken up wearing her mother’s clothes and without her underwear. “My sister told me that she and the accused had washed her. She said I was throwing up everywhere. She showed me videos of me drunk from the night before.”

The videos were on her sister’s phone. “My mother was ordered to drink as well, so it was either [the accused] or my sister who took the video.” 

Mother and victim beaten at ‘demon’s request’

The witness had continued to live there until she had drummed up the courage to defy the voice and leave the house to file a police report.

There were other orders, she said. “We were ordered to clean. We couldn’t leave the house without permission. If I went out, someone in the house would call me - it could even be an hour after - and they would tell me that the voice is threatening to hurt my sister if I don’t come back home. I remember specifically one day, the threat was that he was going to burn the house down if I didn’t go back home.” This would happen a lot when she would go out with her boyfriend, she said.

In reply to another question the witness said she would regularly be beaten at the “demon”’s request. “The beatings could be for any reason, for example if my mother didn’t take her medication that day or hadn’t cleaned how he told her to, or if she was ordered not to smoke that day and had smoked anyway.” 

“We would be told to go upstairs to my sister’s room. We were told to turn off the lights, lie down on the bed, face down and put pillows over our heads so we couldn’t see.”

The women would be beaten with a leather stick, she said, recalling that around the same time the accused had bought one just like it for the dogs. The witness, while following an order to sweep the room, had found the leather stick under the accused’s bed, she said, explaining that there were several beds in the same room.

The beatings would take place in her sister’s bedroom, with the blows being  concentrated on her lower body and legs, she said. “Who would be beaten?” asked Refalo. “It was mostly my mother and me. We would hear [the accused] yelling, insinuating that he was also getting beaten.”

The beds were set up next to each other, with a balcony on the left hand side. “My mother and I would sleep on the bed farthest from the balcony. Then there would be my sister and the accused nearest to the balcony.”

Mother beaten purple

One day, the woman had defied the voice’s orders and had peeked from under the pillow. “I had seen his [the accused’s] silhouette. He was hitting the wall and shouting in pain, to make it sound like he was getting beaten.” She would also feel someone getting up off the bed before the sounds started, she said.

“I would be threatened every day, several times a day. It wasn’t always with beatings - it could be that I’m not allowed to go out, or go to school or that the demon would break up my relationship with my boyfriend.” When not beating her up, the “demon” would be assaulting her sister or mother, she recalled.

On one occasion he threatened to cut the soles of her feet, she said. Another time he had threatened to “burst my sister’s eyes.”

The beatings would leave marks on her legs and buttocks, she said. “My mother would have marks over her entire body. It would look so bad that it was like her body was purple, not the normal colour.” 

It was only the witness and her mother who would have marks from the beatings, she recalled. “I don’t recall my sister getting beat and I just don’t remember [the accused] having bruises, although we would hear him screaming while getting beat.”

“When one person gets an order, we would all hear it. It was like someone was talking in the room. And we would only hear the voice when [the accused] isn’t near us. If we heard the voice while downstairs and he was upstairs, we would hear the voice coming from the stairs.”

“I was extremely attached to my sister for the first few weeks after returning home. I felt like she had the power to convince the alleged demon to not hurt us. I would want protection during that time.”

The judge asked whether her parents were treating her well at that time. “My father was indifferent. He wasn’t even with us. And my mother was so extremely abused, physically and mentally, that she couldn’t do much to protect us.”

She described her mother as mentally weak, severely depressed and easily manipulated. ”She was the biggest victim of us all, so she wasn’t in a position to try to help us.”

The beatings would happen in her sister’s bedroom. A small room had been set up for the witness, but the voice would order her to sleep in her sister’s room for months.

Asked whether her boyfriend would ever visit her house, she said he visited once. “He came once, because one morning, my brother told me that the voice - who he would refer to as ‘the spirit’ - had ordered me to bring my boyfriend over and that we had to have sex. Back then, me and my boyfriend had only met two weeks before and we hadn’t had any sexual relations. I didn’t want to but…. the voice… I don’t remember if at this point it was literally through the voice or it could be [the accused] telling me that this demon wants this to happen.”

She had been threatened, said the witness, briefly becoming emotional, but she was unable to recall what the threats were.

Mother, victim forced into sexual acts

The judge asked her to explain the sexual encounters with her mother. “It was the same day that I was forced to have sex with my boyfriend. That evening [the accused] told me that he had bad news and that the demon was mad because I didn’t introduce my boyfriend to everyone. So me and my mother were ordered to take all our clothes off…”

“Who gave that order?” asked Refalo.

“I heard the voice give that order.”

At the time, her sister and the accused had been asleep in bed. “They were laid down in bed facing away from us, seeming to be asleep. But the voice was coming from where [the accused] was laying down.”

“After we took our clothes off, me and my mother were ordered to start sharing sexual stories back and forth. So we started doing that and the voice ordered me to start masturbating. And then, at this point, my mother is laying down in bed and I’m standing in front of the bed, and he ordered my mother to stand up next to me.

“I remember trying to ask my sister for help, but the voice said that he had cast a spell that stopped the accused and my sister from hearing us.” 

With difficulty and with her voice breaking, the witness described what happened next. “He ordered me and my mother…” she said, wiping away a tear. “He wanted us to lick each other’s nipples. I remember that I didn’t want to and the voice started to say that it was normal and that babies do this to their mothers all the time.

“I think I did it for two seconds but I wouldn’t let my mother do it back.”

Refalo asked if anything had happened later that evening.

“Yes,” said the witness. “He ordered us to lay down on the floor. At this point, we’re naked and this is around the end of December so we were freezing. He told us to start reciting the Act of Contrition. He told us to say it over and over. 

“At one point we started feeling like a lot of water was being thrown at us. It felt like a bucket of water. I was so cold and so scared. I just kept thinking ‘I just need to survive till the morning.’”

But the “voice” wasn’t done yet. It ordered her to switch on the fan on a high speed setting and stand next to it. “I was too scared to ask if I could turn it off.” At one point the accused woke up and told her to turn it off, she said.

The prosecutor asked the witness whether she had ever discussed this incident with her family. She said she had not. “I’m so ashamed that I haven’t spoken about it with anyone except the police.”

In the years after the abuse, the accused would tease her about the sexual torture she endured, claiming to have been told by the demon about everything she had done.

Refalo asked whether she could recall any other incidents. “I remember that one time I was lying on the bed with my mother. We were all in the same room. The accused told my mother that the demon had told him that she had to take off all her clothes and that it had told him that he had to keep looking at her.” That day the order was not extended to the witness, she said. “Then what happened?” asked the judge.

“Someone was ordered to go get a broom.” The accused had suggested they bring some body cream from the bathroom, she said. The mother was told to lie down on the desk. The accused was telling the mother ‘you already did this.’ “She was complaining but it was like she knew what was going on. I was ordered to put the broom inside my mother’s vagina. He ordered me to start moving the broomstick. I was refusing and I was going super slow. He wanted me to go faster to the point where she was screaming in pain.” 

At this point the accused and the witness’ sister were watching from the bed with the accused apparently channelling the voice of the demon. At one point she said, the accused had grabbed the broomstick out of her hand and started to move it violently as the witness’ mother screamed in pain.

She could not recall precisely whether the mother had also been sodomised with the broomstick, but said it was possible. 

“The whole episode lasted about 10-15 minutes,” said the witness. Her mother was complaining the entire time, even before it started, she recalled, but the accused had told the woman to withstand it and that she had “done this before.”

Accused relayed instructions from ‘demon’

At that point it was the accused saying that he was relaying the instructions from the demon, the witness clarified, explaining that on that day she had only heard the accused speak.

Asked by the court whether the accused appeared disturbed by what he was seeing going on before him, she replied, “he was kind of smirking. Like he was entertained.”

The witness said she had never seen any paranormal activity in the house before the voice. “I started noticing a lot of things, like the voice sounded like [the accused] making a scary voice, or that he was covering his mouth.”

On one occasion, she said, she could see the accused’s reflection in the mirror and could see his lips moving while the voice was speaking. “There was also the fact that when he was not around nothing happened. I started trying to test it.” 

She would usually be too scared to stay alone at the house but one time her sister and mother took the accused to football training. “While he wasn’t there, absolutely nothing happened.”

The voice would also order her to do things that her sister wanted, like cook for them or to buy her a specific dress. “The voice didn’t speak English and spoke Maltese. The wording sounded a lot like how [the accused] talks.” The witness was unable to recall ever hearing the accused speak in English and would be ordered to speak in Maltese by the “voice.”

The penny dropped when the witness realised that the demon couldn’t pass through closed doors and that when cornered, the accused would say ‘you know the demon can take my form’ as a sort of catch-all explanation.

But the witness’ mother and sister believed in the demon completely, she said. “After the first few weeks I started adding things up and noticed that there were too many coincidences and that it couldn’t be supernatural.”

One day, the accused threw a shoe at the back of her head. “I saw him, but at the time I thought I couldn’t show that I was having suspicions because everyone was on his side and it would only make things worse. So I went upstairs and locked myself in the small room.”

“I could hear them telling me to get out and trying to open the lock with a screwdriver.” 

She had once tried to explain to her grandfather that she knew the accused was doing these things, telling him not to tell anyone. “But he immediately told everyone.”

The accused had once told the mother and sister to stay downstairs, while he was in the balcony. The voice had then told the witness to throw a shoe at the accused. “I felt it was a trap, so I refused.” Then the accused had started shouting, telling her sister and mother to come upstairs because the demon had “apparently taken my form and tried to suffocate him with a pillow.” He had done the same thing to the mother to prove the same point, she said.

Witness used sex tape to file police report

The witness had spoken to a psychologist. “This was at a point when I still thought that the voice was a demon. So I tried to explain to her how I was forced to move back in with my parents and that my parents were overly strict and that I couldn’t leave my sister alone. This was my way of… we were brainwashed to believe that the demon could hear everything we said. I wanted to tell her that something was wrong but was too scared to tell her.”

Her mother had taken a lover, who had started to live with the woman a few months before the witness had moved in. “I knew about him, but I was indifferent,” she said. The accused would spend most of his days at home, on his PlayStation, the witness told the court, when asked about his occupation.

Later on in the sitting, the witness was shown a video that she had been ordered to take of her mother having sex with her father. The witness can be heard protesting, as can the mother.

She explained that on that occasion, the voice had ordered the father to go into the garden and have sex with her mother there, also “urging him to be more aggressive.” “Then he told them to have sex on the dining room table and told me to go record it.” The witness could not recall whether the command had been issued through the “voice” or came from the accused directly. “I saved it on my phone as it occurred to me that it could be used as evidence. Then I contacted the police inspectors and gave them my phone.”

The accused would subsequently make misogynistic comments to the witness about her sister, she said. “He would make her feel bad all the time, threatening to break up with her.”

After she had filed a police report, the witness said she was whisked away to a shelter, later being moved to a home for young people. Some time after that, she moved in with her boyfriend. She had moved back to her parents about a year after the incidents, but “after that it was like nothing supernatural had ever happened.”

The judge asked about her mother’s relationship with the occult. “When I was young, around 8, my mum would use a ouija board. She also liked to collect dolls which were apparently haunted.”

Witness cross-examined

The accused’s defence lawyer, Mario Mifsud, cross-examined the witness, asking her about her relationship with her mother and whether it had changed after she moved in. “I barely had any contact with her. I was still angry about my upbringing. After I moved back in, obviously we were going through all this together and so I was drawn to her and forgot about the past.”

Mifsud confronted the witness with the fact that during this period, in January 2019, she had complained to her sister that her mother had been bothering her, not the devil.

The lawyer suggested that she had told her sister to give the mother a whipping with a rope and that she had done this “so as to not go to prison herself.” The witness said she did not remember this.

When visiting home, the witness would use her mother’s laptop, said Mifsud, suggesting that she downloaded or viewed pornographic videos on it. She denied having seen any other sex videos on the laptop, she said. “100% no.”

Mifsud asked whether she had ever seen a video named “Nude for Satan” which he said had been found on the laptop. She hadn’t, she said.

The reason for asking, he said, was because that film had a showering scene similar to what she had described as happening with her sister. The witness rejected the suggestion and pointed out that it could have been the accused’s inspiration.

Mifsud referred to her mother’s male friend, whom she had mentioned earlier. He suggested that the man was the mother’s lover. “At one point, I had suspicions,” the witness replied. Her mother had relationships with several men, she said, adding that their relationship was currently not a good one.

Mifusd suggested that, in January  2019, at a time when her mother had suspected that she was pregnant, the witness had told her that the family could not afford another baby. The question was objected to by the prosecution as irrelevant, but was allowed. Mifsud justified the question, claiming that the witness’ testimony had been “scripted.”

“So might as well, kill it” read the lawyer from the messages exchanged. “Yes,”  replied the witness.
“Why so much hatred towards this unborn child?” he asked. “I don’t hate babies, I just knew we couldn’t afford the baby.”

A penchant for the occult

The lawyer read on from an exchange with her sister. “The spirit would kill it [the baby] by beating her anyway.” He asked why she hadn’t said that the accused would kill the baby. “She was being beaten regularly at that point and if she was really pregnant, the baby would be killed anyway,” was the witness’ reply.

Her parents would argue often, about money and the mother’s infidelity, she said. Asked whether she had ever heard her mother talk about visiting to fortune tellers, she said she had. “Yes. I don’t remember his name. She liked this topic of fortune telling.”

The lawyer asked whether her mother would ever place curses on people. She did, replied the witness. Asked who the targets were the witness said she did not know and did not want to guess.

Mifsud also confronted the witness with her initial testimony before the first court, in which she had said she had seen the accused, not just his silhouette. “I saw [him],”  she replied.

Answering other questions, the witness said that she hadn’t told her boyfriend about the supposed supernatural incidents and that she hadn’t tried to film or record the abuse, because she was afraid of the accused.

He asked whether the witness and the mother had discussed the abuse they both had suffered. “I would tell her how it was weird that they would happen only when he was here…I would mention my suspicions,” she replied.

“She [the mother] also thought it was weird, though she was completely convinced that the demon was somehow attached to [the accused].”

The witness said she was aware that her mother was seeking psychiatric help.

The mother had attempted suicide “many times,” she confirmed. 

Had her mother told her that she had done the same sex acts with her lover, asked the lawyer. “Yes. She told me it happened in the house. Before I moved in with them.” She had not been there when they happened.

The lawyer asked what she had meant when she said the video could be used as evidence. “I wanted to use it to prove that I was being abused,” she said, reminding the lawyer that the video had been taken at the accused’s request. “When we were given orders it would be ‘either do that or something bad would happen.’”

In the video the witness’ voice is heard saying that she didn’t want to carry on filming, Mifsud pointed out. She knew it was the accused at that time, she said, but she hadn’t told her father because he “isn’t protective”.

“So you would trust only your grandfather.” suggested the lawyer. “At that point, I had faith in no one,” the witness replied.

The trial continues tomorrow.