Elderly man charged with sexual assault of psychologically infirm woman

The man allegedly lured the woman to his house after gaining her confidence and fondled her breasts in an incident that happened three days ago

The case came to light after the woman spoke about the terrifying experience with a social worker (File photo)
The case came to light after the woman spoke about the terrifying experience with a social worker (File photo)

An elderly man who allegedly manipulated and sexually assaulted a psychologically infirm young woman was charged in court on Wednesday.

Manweli Zahra, 68, from Birżebbuġa, was arraigned under arrest by police inspectors John Spiteri and Roderick Attard before Magistrate Marse-Anne Farrugia.

Zahra was accused of committing a sexual act on a vulnerable person and subjecting her to an act of physical intimacy or asking her for sexual favours.

A protection order was requested for the woman, as was a treatment order for the accused.

The court heard how the man struck up a conversation about the woman’s ex-boyfriend before luting her to his house on 17 February, where the alleged abuse took place.

Once inside, the accused had allegedly fondled the woman’s breasts, Inspector Spiteri said.

The police were called after the vulnerable woman, terrified and upset after the incident, spoke to a social worker.

Zahra, who walked into court with great difficulty, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Defence lawyer Yanika Bugeja, appointed as legal aid to the accused, requested bail.

The prosecution objected to the request, due to the nature and severity of the charges and fearing the man would tamper with evidence.

The alleged victim, although in her 30s, suffers from psychiatric problems and is easily manipulated to pervert the course of justice, explained Inspector Spiteri.

The prosecution said it was still premature to grant bail, pointing out that the accused had allegedly first obtained the victim’s trust and then committed the alleged assault.

Bugeja argued that the accused was presumed innocent until found guilty. The accused had a clean criminal conduct and would not try to escape or abscond due to his mobility problems.

Furthermore, conditions could be imposed to protect the alleged victim, she said.

Inspector Spiteri replied that the first test of the necessity for arrest is carried out by the police. Although it was true that the accused had a clean conduct and was of a certain age, the court had in this case, a vulnerable witness who was “very easily manipulated.”

The possibility of having her testify via videoconferencing was also mooted.

The court, in view of the nature of the charges and the real fear of tampering with evidence, denied bail and remanded the accused in custody.

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