Man jailed for four years over car-jacking, sexual assault in St. Paul's Bay

Man jailed for four years for stealing a woman’s car and sexually assaulting her when she tried to stop him

File photo
File photo

A court has jailed a man for four years for stealing a woman’s car and sexually assaulting her when she tried to stop him.

31-year-old Jeffry Varghese, an Indian national residing in St. Paul’s Bay, was convicted of committing a non-consensual sexual act on the victim, detaining her against her will, stealing the car she had been driving as well as causing damage to the vehicle.

The incident took place on 24 August 2021 at around 7:30pm in Triq it-Turisti, St. Paul’s Bay.

Police had received a report from the woman who said that an Indian man had stepped into her car without authorisation and had touched her inappropriately while impeding her escape from the vehicle. After the woman had eventually managed to get out of the car, the man proceeded to drive away, causing €700 damage to the vehicle in the process.

The victim had testified in September 2021, explaining to magistrate Nadine Lia that her car had stalled in the middle of the road and that she was having difficulty restarting the engine.

The accused had been passing by and had offered to help the woman start her car, she said.

“He got in and managed to start the engine and then started to drive away,” she told the court.  The woman had quickly climbed into the passenger seat and told the man to stop the car.

Instead, she said, he started to put his hands all over her and tried to pull her on top of him. The woman was unable to get out of the car because Varghese kept pulling her back in, recalled the woman. “Then he told me ‘they’ would shoot me if I got out of the car. I was screaming at him to stop.”

The victim eventually managed to escape from the car, which Varghese then drove off in. Police found the damaged car in the vicinity the next day, now with a big dent on the right-hand side and leaking oil.

Varghese was arrested in February 2022, by police officers responding to a report of erratic driving on Triq it Turisti. The driver, who police later identified as the defendant, was found inside a white Mercedes.

The police officer who arrested Varghese told the court that the defendant appeared confused and did not answer any questions. Eventually a man approached the vehicle and identified himself as the person renting it, telling the police that the defendant was inside the vehicle without his permission, at which point Varghese was taken into custody.

Varghese chose to testify on 28 February this year, telling the court that he had been out with some friends when he saw a lady waving for help as her car was not starting and was partially blocking the road. He claimed to have driven the car around the block “to allow the battery to charge” but said he could not recall that the woman had been seated next to him in the car, nor could he remember anything other than that “because he was dizzy.” He told the court that the next thing he remembered was being “relaxed” in the white Mercedes and being arrested by the police immediately after. 

He had released a statement after his arrest, claiming to have been drunk at the time. 
Deciding the case, Magistrate Nadine Lia observed that the victim had given a detailed and clear account of the incident on several occasions, had released a statement to the police as well as having testified in court, and had remained consistent every time, recounting the same facts in the same chronological order and repeating the defendant’s words and actions.

Bystanders who happened to be present at the scene had confirmed aspects of the version of events and the sequence in which they played out.

The magistrate noted that Varghese did not deny being there on the date and time in question and neither did he deny coming into contact with the woman. “As such he does not contest what the victim states because he declared in both instances that when it came to the incidents, he had no memory or recollection of what happened since he was dizzy and drunk as he had been consuming alcohol which he had bought.”

“The defendant rests his defence primarily on the fact that he cannot remember anything that happened and as a result distances himself from what could have happened in the car,” said the magistrate, before going on to observe that one of Varghese’s companions had corroborated the fact that he had been drinking and had approached the woman.

Finding Varghese guilty of all the charges against him, the court condemned him to imprisonment for four years. A three-year restraining order was also issued against the defendant in favour of the victim, starting from the date of his release.