Woman found chained in Fort Ricasoli changed version of events, court told

Says she was not kidnapped but willingly got into car with husband

A woman who was found chained in a cave at Fort Ricasoli changed her sworn statement about the way events unfolded because she had been afraid of her husband and did not want problems with the law, a court was told today. 

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is hearing the compilation of evidence against her husband, Seychelles-born Roddy Williams, who is accused of chaining his 46-year-old wife Natalie in a cave in Kalkara.

The husband stands accused of not providing her with food or drink during her ordeal. She had no mobile phone as it had been taken from her before she went into the underground complex.

She was found three days after being reported missing. 

Court-nominated expert Richard Sladden, who had taken a deposition from Ms Williams and visited the place where she was allegedly held, testified today.

He explained that after the first sitting before the magistrate, Ms Williams had wanted to change some aspects of her story.

She had changed her version because she was afraid of her husband and had not faced any problems with the police before, he said. Although she had initially claimed to have been kidnapped, in her second version, she told the court that she had willingly got into the car with the accused.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono asked if had really been afraid of her husband, why would she make up the story that he had threatened her to get into the car. 

“The reason she gave for lying under oath…” he began, but was stopped by the court which pointed out that changing versions under oath is not necessarily lying under oath.

Dr Debono pointed out that in the second version the woman had said that she had called him to meet up and talk. 

“There was this allegation that her husband had held her head underwater.”

It was not the woman who had made the allegation, however, Dr Sladden said.

“Even during the first sitting....she said he had thrown her into the water but denied that he had held her head under water,” confirmed the witness.

Dr Debono asked where this came from. Dr Sladden suggested that it might have been an allegation that first surfaced in the news.

It was like a grave. When you go inside...the actual chamber gives you the impression of a Punic grave

She had once refused her husband's advances but had consented to sex on subsequent occasions, he said.

“There was one time where she did not consent.”

Also testifying  was obstetrician and gynaecologist Joanna Ghigo, who had been nominated to examine Ms Williams for evidence of rape. She recalled the woman explaining that Mr Williams had threatened to kill her father and children if she disobeyed.

“She refused sex and was threatened. He insisted, saying she was still his wife...and also said 'you know what is coming' at which point she did not offer resistance to intercourse.” The couple had sex at least four times during the ordeal.

The accused showed surprise when the doctor mentioned he had been told the woman had been threatened with a glass object.

“On examination... I could not see any marks or bruising. The vulva looked normal,” Dr Ghigo said. Swabs and samples were taken to forensic labs.

“My conclusion is that there were no obvious lesions... to suggest forced penetration.”

She qualified this observation, however. “For a woman of her age who has had two vaginal deliveries...unless there is obvious forced trauma you would not be able to ascertain if there was forced penetration or not.”

The patient had told her she had submitted out of fear, and insisted on cross-examination.

Last to testify was architect Mario Cassar who had drawn up a site plan of the area where the woman was found. He was impressed by the pitch darkness.

“I set my camera's ISO to 3000 and I still couldn't see anything in the viewfinder,” he said. The architect said he found it hard to breathe in the cave.

“There is no air current. It was like a grave. When you go inside... the actual chamber gives you the impression of a Punic grave.”

The case continues. Lawyer Ludwig Caruana is appearing parte civile for the victim, while police inspectors Josric Mifsud and Paula Ciantar are prosecuting.