The Supreme Court has convicted a former cruise ship worker for the rape of another former co-worker.
Justice Daniel Fatiaki found Noel Isaac of Tanna guilty of one count of an act of indecency and an additional count of sexual intercourse without consent.
The offending occurred when both the victim and the defendant were crew members on board the P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn.
The victim boarded the ship at Brisbane in early December 2017, and the ship set sail for New Caledonia before heading for Port Vila.
She told the court she first became acquainted with Isaac while on duty on December 4.
Isaac as the more experienced crew member showed her around the different areas and sections of the kitchen. And a friendship began to develop between them.
During cross-examination, she told the court that her supervisor was not helpful to her, but Isaac stepped in and helped her, encouraging her to keep going.
The victim said the following day (December 5), Isaac rang her cabin phone around 10am and asked to go and see her.
She said her response was she was getting ready for work but he was persistent, entered uninvited and forcibly kissed her on the lips.
Isaac denied this, but she remained steadfast in her evidence under cross-examination, saying she did not tell anyone about what he had done to her that morning because she was concerned that other workers on the ship might spread the word on what had happened.
She said she preferred talking to Isaac in person about his behavior so the matter could end with them rather than making an official complaint with the potential adverse disciplinary consequences that would likely ensue.
She testified that on December 6, the defendant insisted on washing her dirty laundry and returning it.
Isaac claimed that he dropped the laundry and left at the same time.
However, the CCTV Review log showed him walking to the victim’s cabin with a blue bag but only came out some 40 minutes later.
He accepted under cross-examination that it would take 6-7 minutes to walk from his cabin to the victim’s cabin.
Justice Fatiaki said that Isaac was being less truthful about his friendship and feelings towards the victim and found that he did asked for a visit in her cabin in December 4, 2017 during their first encounter.
He said that he found that the defendant rang up the victim and went to see her on December 5 in the morning and later in the afternoon when the victim was getting ready for work.
“I do not accept that the defendant’s denial of ever visiting the complainant’s cabin or not knowing its location or the cabin number before the morning of December 6, 2017 when he delivered her laundry to her cabin,” Justice Fatiaki said.
“In this regard, the defendant in cross- examination when asked how he knew where to deliver the complainant’s laundry, he clearly said ‘I knew the complainant’s cabin’.
“On being asked how he came to know the location of the complainant’s cabin, the defendant offered no answer and remained silent for three minutes.
“The defendant was later caught out again when he suggested that the complainant’s name written on the cabin door and had to retract it when a photo of the complainant’s door was shown to him without her name on it.
“In a similar vein, when questioned about his motivation or reasons for getting the complainant to his cabin and leaving her inside on the night of December 5, the defendant was visibly uncomfortable and fell silent again when he was unable to give an answer”.
He said that he is satisfied that as the ship drew closer to Port Vila which the defendant’s final disembarkation port, he grew more desperate in his pursuit of the victim when under the pretext of delivering her washed laundry, Isaac seized the opportunity and had forcible intercourse with her without her consent.
He said evidence from CCTV, Isaac did not leave immediately after delivering the laundry was totally different to what he said in his statement that he invited the victim into his cabin.
“The defendant is accordingly convicted as charged for the offence of sexual intercourse without consent,” he said.
In her statement, the victim said she disembarked and went home and later reported the matter to her husband and relatives.
Although she was meant to re-join the ship before its departure that afternoon, the victim remained on shore.
On December 11, she wrote a letter to her employer citing two reasons for not rejoining the ship.
The first was stress and her unhelpful supervisor, the second was the distressing and shameful incident.
Isaac is now waiting to be sentenced.