Former defence staff in New Zealand admits to indecent assault

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 01 Dec 2015

WELLINGTON: A former defence staff at the Malaysian mission here pleaded guilty to the indecent assault of a New Zealand woman, with a court hearing that he burst into her bedroom naked from the waist down.

Mohammed Rizalman Ismail (pic), 39, was a defence staff assistant at the High Commission then.

The case caused outrage when he fled New Zealand, citing diplomatic immunity.

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2014 file photo, Malaysian military officer Muhammad Rizalman Ismail stands in the dock at a court hearing in Wellington, New Zealand. The Malaysian military officer who was extradited to New Zealand after earlier leaving the country under the protection of diplomatic immunity pleaded guilty Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, to indecent assault. (AP Photo/Nick Perry, File)

Rizalman was eventually extradited to face the New Zealand courts and had pleaded not guilty to attempted rape and burglary.

AFP reported that the original charges were dismissed yesterday when he admitted to one count of indecent assault against Tania Billingsley.

Rizalman’s lawyer, Donald Stevens, cited extenuating circumstances including mental illness, although prosecutors contest this.

The court heard that on May 9 last year, Billingsley was at home in Brooklyn, the Wellington suburb where the High Commission is located, when she heard a knock on her bedroom door.

Rizalman then entered wearing no trousers or underpants. She screamed and struggled with him, managing to push him out of the house before calling police.

“The victim was entitled to be very, very frightened at the situation confronting her,” prosecutor Grant Burston said.

Stevens said Rizalman told police the pair had been to the cinema together that day but the court did not hear whether Billingsley confirmed this. The defence lawyer also denied that Rizalman’s offence was sexually motivated.

Burston said experts would be called to dispute Rizalman’s argument that he was mentally unwell, saying his behaviour was more consistent with “cannabis use and anxiety”.

Indecent assault carries a maximum jail term of seven years in New Zealand.

Judge David Collins said a hearing into disputed aspects of the case would take place on Friday before sentencing.

Rizalman sat quietly in the dock as an interpreter explained proceedings to him.

In Kuala Lumpur, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein noted that Rizalman should face the music, saying: “I have never protected anyone in the context of getting justice. He will not receive any protection from us, whether Mindef or the armed forces,” he said.

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