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Traumatised cruise rape victim still awaits justice

Three years on, still no closure for British student

“No police” on a cruise ship. The Celebrity Reflection, where the alleged rape took place. Photo: Shutterstock

“No police” on a cruise ship. The Celebrity Reflection, where the alleged rape took place. Photo: Shutterstock

Matthew Xuereb reports on a case that has dragged on in the Maltese courts for three years as the victim suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A British university student who was allegedly raped while cruising the Mediterranean three years ago is struggling to find peace and closure, as the case against her assailant in the Maltese law courts drags on.

Very little progress has been registered in the court case against the Scottish student charged with sexually assaulting her after the two met on the Celebrity cruise ship Reflection.

The woman’s parents told The Sunday Times of Malta in an interview that they feel the lengthy proceedings constitute an injustice.

“We had hoped that the Maltese justice system would be similar to that in the UK but our hopes have been shattered as we see days, weeks and months pass by before we are anywhere close to any form of justice,” the victim’s father said.

“We need a speedier solution. It’s been three years since the attack and we do not want any other families go through the same experience and then find that the system is not on their side, supporting them,” the mother added.

On the evening of July 23, 2014, the woman, who was travelling with her parents and younger brother, had her drink spiked, by a fellow passenger, who then allegedly indecently assaulted her and raped her.

She recovered consciousness in the cabin and found herself in a compromising position.

The alleged incident took place in international waters. The 3,600-passenger cruise ship – the largest and latest of the Celebrity line-up – was registered in Malta, so the case must be heard by a Maltese court. 

She often tells us that she wants to be invisible so that people cannot see her and judge her. She even wears baggy clothes to look less feminine

The man was charged in Malta after having been brought here on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant issued by the Maltese police.

Names of both and victim and the alleged attacker are not being published by order of the court.

Apart from the main charge of rape, the Scotsman was also charged with holding the woman against her will and with committing violent indecent assault on her.

The parents believe that a cruise ship is “a good place” for the crime to be committed because there are no police around.

They said the case was being heard by “a very courteous” Magistrate Aaron Bugeja. But since it was taking so long, the parents recently wrote to the Attorney General to demand an explanation. None has been forthcoming.

The first sitting was held in July 2015 and even the magistrate has since remarked about the duration of the proceedings.

“We feel we are not important because it’s been going on for such a long time. We’ve had to fight to get justice from the very first moments, when it was only through the involvement of the British police and a story in the Times of Malta that the authorities in Malta got moving and issued the European arrest warrant,” the heartbroken parents said.

They said the evidence gathered by the ship, at the time the incident was reported, has not yet made it to the case file in Malta

Asked about the effect this all had on their daughter, the parents said they wished that no parents would go through the same pain.

“My daughter now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and this lengthy process is not helping her at all. She is trying very hard to complete her university course. She has difficulty studying and is scared of crowds and new environments.

“She often tells us that she wants to be invisible so that people cannot see her and judge her. She even wears baggy clothes to look less feminine. This is evidence of the profound effect this has had on her,” they said.

The father said his daughter was “very brave” in the court sessions but this “came at a price”.

“She had to ensure the trauma of identifying her assailant in court and had to go through a long and painful testimony. Now she knows that she is going to be called back to Malta for the cross examination and this is destroying her,” he said.

The parents said the message they wanted to get across was that cruises were not the safe place for families they were promoted to be.

“We find it offensive when we hear this as our experience has been awful.”

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