Stalybridge New Year’s Eve taxi rape trial begins
Tuesday 13th June 2017 @ 09:59 by Nigel P.
Dukinfield News Stalybridge

Ko-ko Lounge in Stalybridge where a a young woman had earlier enjoyed New Year’s Evening celebrations before allegedly falling victim to sexual assault on wasteland in the town

The trial of Mudassar Raja accused of raping an 18-year-old girl in Stalybridge, in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2016, got underway at Minshull Street Crown Court yesterday.

Opening the prosecution case against Mr. Raja from Dukinfield, prosecution counsel Mr Jonathan Savage, told a jury of seven women and five men that there were three charges against the 38 -year-old former taxi driver, one of rape and two of sexual assault.

Mr Raja denies all three charges maintaining that it simply did not take place.

Mr Savage described how the alleged victim had gone out on New Years Eve 2015, with a male friend and celebrated the evening in Stalybridge town centre with a visit at around 10 30 pm, to a wine bar where they consumed a couple of glasses of wine before going to Ko-Ko Lounge night club a short distance away.

While in the night club the young woman admitted drinking more than one bottle of wine and at around 2.30am, her male friend left the night club but she decided to stay on until 4 30am when she left the club.

The Prosecution Counsel said: “She was very very drunk, she cannot recall the detail of all the events and on some them she is unclear and on some occasions wrong. But the police say notwithstanding that, she is clear on what she suffered.”

On leaving the club there was some trouble at the door and she met up with friends and coming away from the club she got into a Vauxhall Vivaro Minibus, private hire taxi driven by Mr Raja.

This was at 4.40am on New Year’s Day that she got into the defendant’s car.

There is no dispute about this, as it was caught on Close Circuit TV, recovered from Stalybridge town centre.

The woman did not stay in the taxi for very long, with the defendant driving around Stalybridge town centre before dropping the woman back off in the town centre.

The young woman  said she had no recollection of being in the taxi at that time.

After dropping the young woman off in Stalybridge the defendant then carried on working the same area.

Meanwhile the woman met a friend and intended to go to a friend’s house to carry on celebrating.

However at “some point a taxi turned up.” The defendant had been requested to pick up a fare and there was some confusion as to who had called the taxi – it was either the alleged victim or another person nearby.

Where there is no issue, is that it was the alleged victim that got into the taxi for the second time that morning.

She said where she wanted to go but the defendant set off in the direction of Dukinfield.

The young woman realised she was going the wrong way and told the driver to drop her off at her home address.

The taxi then drove back along Stamford Road back in the direction of Stalybridge.

As the taxi headed back to Stalybridge at some point it pulled off onto some waste ground near a petrol station.

The defendant said he drove there because the young woman said she needed to perform a call of nature.

But the young woman alleges that the defendant called her a “beautiful girl” and proceeded to put his hands on her and put his hand inside her jump suit and sexually assaulted her before demanding she perform a sexual act on him.

The attack did not last for very long and the young woman managed to push the defendant away and demanded to be taken to her home address.

At this point during the journey the woman realised she had lost her house keys, she was taken to her home address and she just wanted to get out of the taxi as quickly as possible.

The defendant did drop her off at her home but in his haste to drive away it is alleged he did not wait for the young woman to properly alight the vehicle and she fell and injured her ankle.

This was around 6.30am and a neighbour invited her into his home until her parents arrived when she then took herself to her bed after telling a friend what had happened.

The next day she went to work and broke down confiding in her boss.

Later that evening the young woman told her mother and step-father. She then gave police officers an account in the early hours of the next morning.

The following day the woman recorded an account of what happened to her to the police.

Police enquiries led to securing CCTV footage that later led to the arrest of Mr Raja.

Though Mr Raja admits picking up the alleged victim, in interview he gives a wholly different account of events and says that the woman in fact kissed him, none of the alleged sexual assaults happened and that the woman’s injury was the result of when she had answered a call of nature and fell over.

The trial which was due to start in the morning was delayed until the afternoon after an interpreter failed to turn up to assist the accused in the trial.

Mr Raja’s defence counsel, Mr Batra, told Judge Sarah Baxter that there were a number of issues that needed sorting before the case began.

He said: “There is close circuit television evidence that I have yet to see and the interpreter has not turned up.”

Judge Sarah Baxter said: ”Well let’s deal with that, the question is what is the standard of his English?”

Mr Batra replied: “Though Mr Raja has been in the country for a number of years and generally can speak quite good English, he does still struggle.”

Judge Baxter asked what was his first language to which Mr Batra replied: “Punjabi.”

Judge Baxter said: “Not having an interpreter present for the initial court proceedings does not strike me as necessary, it is vital that he has his interpreter when he gives evidence.”

The court heard that the interpreter would be be present on Tuesday.

(Case Proceeding)