MacRitchie rape trial

Accused claims 'he had scared victim to death'

Three days into a rape trial and the proceedings took a strange turn yesterday when a Bangladeshi construction worker accused of abducting and raping a woman at knifepoint two years ago said he did not have sex with her because she had died from fear.

The victim is alive and had earlier testified that the accused had attacked her.

Describing what transpired on the afternoon of Feb 8, 2015 at a MacRitchie Reservoir trail, Pramanik Liton, 24 claimed he had chased the 39-year-old Chinese national into a forested area and scared her to death. "I tried to scare her by shouting and screaming, (and) after that the girl passed away," he said through a Bengali interpreter.

He also claimed he did not frighten her with a knife. This, despite the woman, who cannot be named due to a gag order, testifying behind closed doors two days earlier. He was in court when she took the stand.

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Liton faces two counts of aggravated rape, one count of sexual assault by penetration and one count of abduction for illicit intercourse.

The court heard he was arrested at his worksite two days after the incident, after his fingerprint was lifted from a jackknife found by a Gurkha tracker in the forest.

His semen was also found on the woman's panties, swabs taken from her body and tissue paper recovered from the crime scene, which was 14m off the trail.

During cross-examination, Deputy Public Prosecutor Stella Tan put forth statements he had given to the police and an Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist, in which he had admitted to the rape and ownership of the knife.

However, Liton claimed he did not make those statements.

In her submissions, DPP Tan said the victim was an "unusually convincing witness", having given a detailed account of the alleged incident.

She said: "The accused's evidence has vacillated from admission to the offence... to claiming (during trial) that he was not at the scene."

A psychiatric assessment done at Changi Prison's Complex Medical Centre found that Liton was not suffering from mental illness.

The punishment for aggravated rape is between eight and 20 years' jail and at least 12 strokes of the cane.

The verdict will be delivered today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Accused claims 'he had scared victim to death''. Print Edition | Subscribe