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Taximan collapsed after garda told him of sex assault claim

A TAXI driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger while taking her home from a night out in Dublin collapsed when gardai first put the allegation to him, a court heard

Mourad Benkouider's wife threw a glass of water over his face and told him to "cop on" when he "appeared to faint" as gardai arrested him at his home on suspicion of having groped the woman.

Benkouider (38) is alleged to have put his hand down the 24-year-old's top and "inappropriately" touched her on the chest during the taxi journey to her home in a northside suburb.

Benkouider, of Hollywell, Upper Kilmacud Road, Dundrum, is pleading not guilty to a charge of sexually assaulting the woman nearly two years ago. The case, which has been heard over two days at Dublin District Court, was adjourned after the defence described as "shambolic" the complaints procedure that led to Benkouider's arrest.





Warned

Benkouider's solicitor also said the accused's taxi licence had been revoked for the last two years following contact between the gardai and the carriage office, despite the fact that he remained "an innocent man".

The court heard the alleged victim had been out with work colleagues on May 10, 2008, before she hailed the defendant's taxi at Harcourt Street. As they talked, she said, he asked her to get into the front passenger seat because he could not hear her. When she did so, he started asking her more personal questions, including whether she had a boyfriend, it is alleged. The court heard she pushed him away, but he put his hand down her top, "toward her chest area" and told her she had "a warm heart".

The court heard the woman had left her mobile phone in the taxi after the incident and he returned it to gardai after they called it. Six days later they arrested him.

Sgt Gerard McGrath said that while the accused was in custody at Clontarf Garda Station, he was asked if he required medical attention in relation to his apparent fainting when arrested. Benkouider told Sgt McGrath he "only wanted to go to a mosque".

The hearing continues in September.

hnews@herald.ie


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