Victim of alleged rape recounts ordeal at the hands of police colleague

A former female police officer tells the court she was raped and sexually assaulted by her colleague when they were on duty together at Msida police station

A former female police officer recounts her rape ordeal in court
A former female police officer recounts her rape ordeal in court

A female police officer who claims to have been raped by a colleague has testified in court about the incidents, insisting under cross-examination she never gave consent.

The woman, who is no longer in the police force, said the accused, a 33-year-old former police officer, had joined her shift in 2017 and the trouble started in October that year. “He started grabbing my breasts and buttocks over the uniform. Even when people were around.”

Fighting to maintain her composure, the victim said she filed a rape complaint against the man, denying suggestions by the defence this was motivated by jealousy because the defendant took a fancy to her colleague.

“I would tell him to leave me alone,” she testified.

“Would he leave you alone?” asked the prosecutor. “No,” she reiterated.

The victim said she had spoken to her sergeant about the aggression she sustained but he seemed not to pay attention. “He smiled and said, ‘Do you want me to tell him?’ He and the defendant were close friends,” the victim testified.

The judge asked why she hadn’t gone further up her chain of command. The inspector she reported to “didn’t like” her, she said and so she had not informed her of the incidents.

“There were two times that… that he raped me. I didn’t want him to,” she said.

Asked by the judge why she waited until March 2018 to report this, the victim said the assailant would threaten her a lot. “He’d tell me ‘don’t you dare’.”

“What changed?” the court asked. “I heard that he [the accused] was doing the same to another colleague of mine… had told me that the defendant would urge him to try propositioning her in the police car. I found out that he had tried to touch her leg and buttocks.”

Dragged to police station kitchenette

The first victim gave a detailed account of the first assault. The defendant had demanded oral sex and when she hadn’t complied, dragged her to the police station kitchenette where, being unable to satisfy his lust with her on her back, he turned her over and raped her from behind, before finishing the alleged sexual assault by masturbating in her presence.

Asked by the court whether she had continued to report for work in the months after the alleged rape, the witness confirmed that she had.

The first victim confirmed that she had filled in a shift change request form, but had not submitted it. 

She had only told one colleague about the incident, she said. “He would say ‘I’m going to go speak to him’ but I would tell him to let it be.”

The judge asked whether the accused would show his colleagues that he fancied her. He would write messages on his phone and show them to her, replied the witness, but he would not press send, “so that there would not be any evidence.” 

One of the purported messages read “today is the opportunity,” she said. “I knew what was coming for me.”

The woman told the court that she was still traumatised by the incidents and that she had PTSD. “I wouldn’t go out, I would be scared he would follow me around. I am not the same person I was before. I panic when I see a uniform. When it gets dark, I still feel like I am going to have to go to work,” she told the court.

Gruelling cross-examination as defence claims there was consent

But other important aspects of her story emerged during her cross-examination by defence lawyer Edward Gatt.

Her relationship with more than one of her superiors had deteriorated, for reasons she said she did not understand. Asked by Gatt whether she was jealous of the defendant, she replied “we were a tight-knit group before he arrived, then he joined us and ruined everything.”

It emerged that despite her car being parked near the police station, she had not tried to leave the police station, despite her claim of knowing what was coming for her.

“I was worried that I would get in trouble for leaving the station empty,” she said.

“So, you are telling me you are more worried about leaving the police station empty than about being raped?” asked the lawyer. “I am saying that… I was worried I would lose my job or go to prison, my son was foremost in my mind. He would tell me he would get me in front of a disciplinary board.”

Gatt asked what the accused would do to her to make her so afraid of him. “He would threaten to get me hauled in front of a board.” She had changed her mind when she heard what he had done to the other officer, she said.

“You are saying you were raped. And that for reasons known only to you, you didn’t report this. You tried to change your shift. This is done by the detail officer. Were you also afraid of doing this?” asked the lawyer.

“As I said before, I was afraid of the change,” the woman replied.

“If someone is raping you, what change were you afraid of? A change for the better?” asked the lawyer.

The woman sat in silence for a few moments. “As I said before, I wasn’t in a good state of mind after what happened,” she eventually volunteered.

“Two inspectors testified this morning and not one of them mentioned any disciplinary board. They didn’t tell us that you were afraid of him because of the threatened board,” pointed out the lawyer. 

She replied that she did not recall telling any of her trusted confidants about the board, bar one. 

“So, after the first rape, you preferred to be subjected to rape to being put before a board?”

“I was afraid of not being believed. Maybe he would claim it was not true. I am telling the truth,” insisted the witness.

Gatt suggested that it was not true that there she had not consented to the sex and that she hadn’t told her superiors about the alleged assault. This point had also been observed by one of the inspectors who testified, he pointed out.

In a gruelling cross-examination, the witness repeatedly insisted that there had been no relationship with the accused and that the sex was not consensual, continuing her denials, even when it was pointed out that Inspector Mercieca had told the court this morning that his understanding was that there had been a short-term relationship between her and the defendant. “Never. Not with [the accused]. Not ever,” she replied.

Amongst his other questions, the lawyer asked the witness about the incidents where she claimed to have been dragged by the defendant, or pinned down by him. “Did it leave any marks? You are telling us he dragged you from the orderly desk to the kitchenette and didn’t leave a single mark?”

“I know I had marks but I don’t remember where,” replied the woman. It hadn’t occurred to her to take a photo of these marks, she said.

“If one of your fears was that you wouldn't be believed, if not a medical certificate, didn’t you even take a photo of your injuries?” asked Gatt.  “No,” she replied.

Gatt asked the woman whether she had suffered any bruises or scratches in her private parts after being raped. “I had pain. Inside,” she replied.

The lawyer was far from convinced. “Wait a minute. You had wounds on your arms, pain in your vagina and you didn’t go to a doctor? You are a police officer, after all.”

He suggested that she was not telling the truth about the issue of consent, but that she was “still in time to tell the truth.”

The woman, however, insisted that she was telling the truth.

The court asked her why she hadn’t taken steps earlier. “I thought this was an episode that would be forgotten.” 

“This is a rape. You were ready to forget this incident and then you changed your mind when you were speaking to the other alleged victim,” Gatt interjected. It emerged that she had not told her partner about the rape, “because I didn’t want trouble. I didn’t want him to think that… he would think that I wanted it.” 

“So, am I understanding correctly? You were afraid that even your partner would not believe you?” “I was afraid, worried about my family, for him” came back the reply.

Gatt’s incisive cross-examination pressed on further, asking the witness whether she could have had relationships with other police officers, if not the defendant.

Prosecutor Angele Vella objected, saying the question was irrelevant, but Gatt explained to the court that he wanted to prove that the witness’s character was “permissive”.

The question was allowed. The witness denied the assertion.

But when the lawyer suggested a name, the woman could only reply that she “never had sex with him.” She was forced to admit that she would French kiss him “sometimes.”

Gatt said her denial of having sex with that officer, was important, suggesting that she had told the defendant that he “didn’t know what to do with it.” She didn’t recall this, she said.

He explained that the kitchenette was close to the quarters where the third officer on duty had been sleeping.

“What I’m asking is this. You want me to believe that he dragged you into the kitchenette, pulled down your trousers, pulled out your underwear, tried to have sex with you from the front, then turned you around and did so from behind and then masturbated over you and subsequently cleaned up the mess with a mop and all this happened in complete silence? With no sound?”

“He’s a deep sleeper,” was her reply.

The cross-examination continued in much the same vein. At one point, the lawyer pointed out that the Msida police station is in a busy place. “Didn’t you try to go outside and shout for help? “I was very scared,” she replied.

There was pepper spray in the police station, Gatt pointed out asking her why it hadn’t crossed her mind to use it. The spray had been on the belt which she hadn’t been wearing, she replied. 

The lawyer confronted the witness with the message that she claimed to have been shown by the accused, about which said she “knew what was coming for her.” “Didn’t it cross your mind to prevent it?” Gatt asked. “I wasn’t thinking,” she replied.

Gatt again suggested that the fact that she had not made any attempt to stop the sex suggested that she was agreeing with what was happening.

“I did not consent. I was terrified. He threatened to take me before a board,” she repeated, eliciting groans from the back of the courtroom.

The lawyer repeated his suggestion that she was “happy with what was going on.” “There was no consent,” repeated the witness.

Civil case for damages

The questions moved on to whether she had ever asked the defendant for money. She had filed a civil case against him, she said. “For the damages, he caused me. I didn’t mention a figure.” Gatt suggested that she wanted €10,000.

The case had been filed five years ago, not long after she had spoken out, she said.

After establishing that the two alleged victims were not the best of friends, Gatt suggested that, far from intending to protect the other officer, the witness had been jealous of the fact that the defendant had cast his roving eye on to someone else.

“You are mistaken,” replied the woman.

Gatt then reeled off the list of grievances she had made about “everyone she worked with,” asking the witness why she had felt so protective about this particular colleague. He suggested that she had found out that the defendant had taken an interest in the other alleged victim because he had asked the witness to cut the other woman a key to the toilet.

“I had cut the key, but I don’t remember the details,” she replied.

The lawyer suggested that the woman felt betrayed by the defendant, because all the fears she had mentioned didn’t make sense. “Do you realise that this doesn’t make sense?”

“There was no consent. I was not angry [indannata]. Not at all.”

“There was no consent and yet the only time you opened your mouth about it was when you found out that the defendant had taken a fancy to your colleague,” hammered the lawyer. “You’re still in time. What are you going to do?”

The witness sat in silence for several minutes, while the defence lawyers discussed something between them. She did not reply.

He pressed her about her having told a probation officer that the defendant was possessive and behaved as if they were in a relationship. “A person who raped you - your concern would be that he raped you, not his thinking about a relationship,” suggested Gatt.

“I can answer you. I didn’t like it when he spoke about my son… He would tell me to smile more at my son. Does he think I’m his girlfriend or something?” she replied testily.

 “You told your probation officer that you wanted the defendant to go to prison,” charged the lawyer.

“Because I want justice,” affirmed the witness.

“You described him as an animal, a criminal wearing a police uniform who deserved to go to prison.”

“I want justice,” she insisted. “Only I know what I went through and continue to go through to this day.”

The court conducted a site visit at the Msida police station on Tuesday night. The second victim will testify tomorrow.

AG lawyers Angele Vella and Darlene Grima are prosecuting.

The defendant is being represented by lawyers Edward Gatt and Franco Debono. Lawyers Lara Dimitriyevic and Stephanie Caruana are appearing for the alleged victims, as parte civile.