World

Ex-Malaysian diplomat guilty of indecent assault of New Zealand woman

A former Malaysian diplomat who burst into a New Zealand woman's bedroom whilst naked from the waist down pleaded guilty on Monday (Nov 30) to indecent assault.

Mohammed Rizalman Ismail was a military attache at Malaysia’s Wellington embassy when the incident happened last year.

He fled to his homeland citing diplomatic immunity, but was later extradited to face the New Zealand courts.

Rizalman pleaded not guilty to the initial charges of attempted rape and burglary. The charges were later dismissed when he admitted to one count of indecent assault against Ms Tania Billingsley.

His lawyer Donald Stevens cited extenuating circumstances including mental illness, although prosecutors contest this.

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

Rizalman then entered wearing no trousers or underwear.

Ms Billingsley screamed and struggled with him. She managed 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.

Mr Stevens said Rizalman told police the pair had been to the cinema together that day, but the court did not hear whether Ms Billingsley confirmed this.

The defence lawyer denied that Rizalman’s actions were sexually motivated.

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.

Judge Collins said if a home detention sentence was imposed, and he stressed it was only a possibility, Rizalman may be allowed to serve it at the Malaysian embassy.

His bail will continue till Friday’s hearing.

Source: AFP

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