Victim testifies in tears about being abducted and sexually assaulted on the way home

Accused was seen smiling after as a court-appointed translator interpreted the victim's heartbreaking testimony

Courts hears a victim’s emotional first-hand account of being abducted and sexually assaulted
Courts hears a victim’s emotional first-hand account of being abducted and sexually assaulted

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A court has heard a victim’s emotional first-hand account of being abducted and sexually assaulted while waiting to catch a bus home after work.

The woman, whose name is subject to a reporting ban, was giving evidence in the compilation of evidence against St. Paul’s Bay resident Ilir Gjorna.

Gjorna, an Albanian national, was arraigned in court yesterday, accused of kidnapping the Maltese woman, committing a non-consensual sexual act on her, holding her against her will, forcing her to perform acts contrary to her modesty, subjecting the woman to unwanted acts of physical intimacy, offending public morals, not being in complete control of the vehicle he was driving and using a mobile phone while driving.

The 29-year-old victim testified before Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo this morning via video link, breaking down in tears several times during her deposition. 

“It was 1 April this year. I finished my shift at 6:00pm and went to catch a bus home. There were other people waiting for the bus. Some minutes later a white commercial van stopped in front of me. The driver wound down the passenger window and started gesturing towards me, asking me to approach, saying ‘come, come.’”

“I thought he was going to ask for directions, so I asked whether he needed anything,” recalled the woman. 

The driver told her that he was her neighbour, to which she replied that she did not recognise him. “I see you every day,” he insisted.

The driver then started pestering her to accept his offer of a lift, but she refused. “At one point, he got out of the van and shoved me into the passenger seat. At that point I froze,” recalled the witness, wiping away tears.

As he drove her along the Birkirkara bypass, the defendant had introduced himself as Fabio, she said. At a point, she said, the driver put his left hand inside her top, touching her breast, but she had pushed his hand away.

“He asked me why [I was refusing]. I said no, I don’t want this.” But the driver did it again and she refused again.

Holding the steering wheel with one hand, the defendant had then put his other hand down her trousers, touching her private parts, she said. He was still driving the vehicle at that point, she said. He turned towards Mater Dei Hospital and handed her his mobile phone asking her to give him her number. 

“I did as he asked, so I would have evidence,” said the woman.

She resisted a third attempt to put his hand under her top, after which Gjorna stopped the van in Vjal ir-Rihan, San Ġwann. 

“I was looking for an opportunity to get out, but there was a high wall which prevented me from opening the door,” she said. At that point, she said, the man pulled down his tracksuit bottoms, grabbed the woman’s head by her ponytail and pushed her head down. 

“I lifted my head up immediately but he pushed me down again.” 

“He told me ‘why are you so difficult? Please, please, do me a favour, I live alone, you are so beautiful.’ I told him ‘no, I’m not that type of girl.”

The accused was seen to smile broadly at this point after court-appointed interpreters translated the woman’s testimony.

The woman’s face turned red and her eyes filled with tears as she recalled telling him “no” several times.

“Then he sort of gave up, let go of my hair and carried on driving. He was masturbating in front of me. Then he grabbed my wrist and put my hand on his exposed genitals.” She managed to pull her hand away after a few seconds, she said.

“Then he dropped me off at home. I hadn’t even told him where I lived!” she said.

Her mother had noticed something was wrong and took her to the police station to file a report.

The witness said she had been afraid that the defendant would pull a knife on her because she didn’t know the man. 

“I’m terrified to this day. I can’t even go to the shop to buy cigarettes. He broke me mentally,” the woman said, breaking into sobs. 

The day after the incident, the defendant had sent WhatsApp messages to the woman, which she ignored, she said. “Hello, ciao bella, stuff like that”. 

She had already filed her police report at that point, said the woman, adding that he had persisted in sending her messages for around four days.

The woman was cross-examined by defence lawyer Mario Buttigieg, whose first question was about what she had been wearing. The woman replied that she had been dressed in a zip-up hoodie over a t-shirt, black leggings and trainers. “So tight leggings?” asked the lawyer. 

It had still been daylight when she had been approached by the defendant, she said in reply to further questions, insisting that she froze in fear when being shoved into the car and did not scream or call for help.  “I did not know what was going to happen to me,” she said.

Replying to further questions from lawyer Alfred Abela, who is also defence counsel, she said she had spoken to Gjorna through the open passenger side window when he first stopped.

“He wanted to drive me to Msida. I said no. I don’t want to accept rides from people I don’t know. I said I would wait for the bus.”

After confirming that she had been standing in front of the door when the man got out of the van, Abela asked how he had managed to open the door with her in front of it, but the witness said the incident had happened in a split second. “I don’t know how to explain it better than this,” she said.

In order to go in the direction, she described, the van would have had to circle the roundabout, pointed out the lawyer, asking the witness why she hadn’t tried to escape then.

She replied, in tears, “you have to be in that situation to understand... Thoughts going through your head.”

The witness confirmed that the van had also stopped in traffic at several roundabouts along the route she described. Asked why she hadn’t tried to get out of the van, she said she didn’t want to risk getting run over.

Abela pointed out that the rest of the traffic would be on the driver’s side. “You need to be in that situation,” repeated the witness.

The cross-examination was suspended after the defence asked the court to appoint an expert to draw up a site plan in view of its disagreement with the witness’ description of the scene.

The case continues later this month.

Police inspectors Andrew Agius Bonelo and Clayton Camilleri are prosecuting, together with prosecutors Angele Vella and Danika Vella from the Attorney General’s Office.

Lawyer Mario Buttigieg is defence counsel to Gjorna together with Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin. Lawyer Stephanie Caruana assisted the victim as parte civile.