O-Week rape trial: Man pleads not guilty

Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 27 Jul 2021, 10:07AM
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

O-Week rape trial: Man pleads not guilty

Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 27 Jul 2021, 10:07AM

A Dunedin 21-year-old allegedly raped two women at the same Orientation Week party, a court has heard.

Samuel Leigh Ebdell is on trial before the High Court at Dunedin after pleading not guilty to three counts of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and two of rape.

His defence, counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said, was simple: he did not commit the offences with which he had been charged.

The first complainant told the court she was drinking with friends at a Castle St party, in the city's student sector, on February 17 last year.

In a video interview with police she gave a couple of weeks later, the woman said she bumped into Ebdell, whom she knew through friends, after using the toilet.

The two allegedly kissed before he invited her to join him outside.

"I gave consent at the beginning," the complainant told police.

However, she said things quickly took a dark turn.

"It began to hurt when he was being a bit too rough with me ... I kind of told him I didn't like it," she said.

Rather than stop, Ebdell tried to convince her she was enjoying it, the woman said.

"I know you love it. Just let me do it," he allegedly said.

The woman told police she had been sexually abused when she was younger and the incident sharply triggered memories from her past.

She said she was scared and when she tried to get away, the violation would be become "10 times harder".

"There was also a little bit of choking, started off soft but then he tightened his grip a little. I would move his hands so I could breathe," the complainant said.

She told the court she had used the word "no" repeatedly but it had no effect on Ebdell.

"He was different. I had never seen that side of him, personally, so it was scary for me," the woman said.

The incident ended when another man walked into the area, but she said it was not the only violation she was subjected to that night.

She told police she went to check on Ebdell when he was "throwing up his guts" on the couch.

He allegedly responded by violating her.

The next day, she said, she found bruises on her breast and hips and when she discovered her friend was making disclosures of sexual abuse she told her story.

The defendant allegedly sent her messages on Snapchat apologising for his conduct but they had automatically deleted after 24 hours, she told police.

"I don't want him to get away with what he's done," the complainant said at the end of her interview.

Under cross-examination, the woman said she had had consensual sex with Ebdell in the months leading up to the night in question.

Saunderson-Warner suggested the pair had simply kissed and the sexual allegations were a fabrication, prompting the witness to break down in tears.

"No," she said.

The woman accepted she had continued dancing and socialising after the alleged violations occurred, and did not inform police or Campus Watch officers who were patrolling the area.

Crown prosecutor Chris Bernhardt said it was alleged Ebdell later went on to rape another woman the same night, witnessed by the first complainant.

She was so intoxicated, he said, that there was no way she could have consented.

Saunderson-Warner urged the jury of six men and six women not to be swayed by hearing evidence of partying which they might find distasteful.

"You're not here to judge that culture, you're here to judge the individual charges," she said.

The trial, before Justice Gerald Nation, is scheduled to conclude before the end of the week.


If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
• Text 4334 and they will respond
• Email [email protected]
• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.

- Rob Kidd, ODT