By Fiona Ferguson
A burglar who broke in through the window of a sleeping woman’s bedroom and sexually assaulted her as she fought to escape has been jailed for ten years.
The woman described at the Central Criminal Court how she awoke in bed to find Ibrahim Elghynaoui (28) on top of her kissing her with his hand on her throat.
She said she believed she was going die as Elghynaoui then strangled her during a struggle on her bedroom floor. She realised no one was coming to help her so began to fight back by pushing her thumbs into his eyes, kneeing him in the groin and biting him on the hand.
She said she told herself: “If you don’t get yourself out of this you are going to die.”
As she got up to run for her bedroom door, she said Elghynaoui put his fingers forcefully into her vagina.
She described this as having the force of an open-handed blow.
She ran from the room and Elghynaoui escaped back out the ground floor window in her room back onto the street.
Elghynaoui admitted to gardai that he was the burglar but denied sexually assaulting the woman.
Elghynaoui of no fixed abode, had pleaded not guilty to aggravated sexual assault of the woman and burglary at her home in Dublin on July 17, 2019.
He was convicted by a jury of both counts following a trial last December.
Elghynaoui pleaded guilty to the burglary of another man’s nearby apartment earlier the same night and attempted burglary of another home on July 12, 2019.
Moroccan national Elghynaoui, who was homeless at the time of these offences, has 33 previous convictions across three jurisdictions.
He has 22 Irish convictions for offences such as burglary, possession of a knife and failing to appear in court. He has been in custody since July 18, 2019.
The court heard today that Elghynaoui came to Ireland in 2017 and first appeared on the PULSE system in August of that year.
He has no immigration status to be in Ireland and a deportation application was submitted by gardai in January 2018.
He was in custody on foot of charges in April 2018 and applied for asylum.
Elghynaoui was released from custody on the basis of that application but failed to engage with the process and the application was closed.
Another deportation order is currently in place.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, said Elghynaoui will not apply to reactivate the asylum process and will be bound by the deportation order.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott today said the accused man had subjected the woman to the terror of a sexual assault on her own bed in the dead of night.
He noted she had been in a vulnerable and defenceless position.
He said she demonstrated very impressive fortitude and courage during the incident.
Mr Justice McDermott said the effects of the attack on the woman had been devastating and long-lasting affecting her life, employment and relationships.
He said the attack had been grossly humiliating and degrading with a clear overhanging threat of serious violence.
The woman, who was alone and at her most defenceless, had been terrified and feared for her life as the accused made continuous efforts to keep her subdued.
The judge said Elghynaoui bore a high degree of culpability and set a headline sentence of 12 years for the sexual assault and nine years for the burglary.
He noted in mitigation that Elghynaoui had accepted the evidence in the case to a significant degree and acknowledged he was present but did not plead guilty or express remorse.
He took into account the guilty pleas to the other burglaries and that Elghynaoui will serve his sentence in this country where he has no friends and will have social and cultural difficulties.
Mr Justice McDermott imposed a sentence of ten years for the aggravated sexual assault, seven and a half years for the burglary of the woman’s home.
He imposed a sentence of three years for the earlier burglary and 18 months for the attempted burglary with all sentences to run concurrently.
“To this day I do not feel safe,” the woman told the court in her victim impact statement, describing the effect of being attacked in the privacy of her own bedroom.
“Nowhere feels safe.”
She said she lives in a state of “hyper-vigilance” and lives in constant fear it will happen again.
“I am fighting hard to heal from the ordeal. I do not want to look back in anger or regret but know my life, or my life before the crime is gone, and I am still grieving for that life.”
“This crime which probably only lasted a few minutes has left an irreparable mark on my life and life of my family,” she told Justice McDermott.
She said after the crime, the trial process was the second worst experience of her life.
She described how she had been “in the dark” for 18 months not knowing if she would have to face her attacker in court.
“I was terrified of seeing him and putting a face to the nightmares,” she said.
She said talking about her body and intimate details during the trial in a room full of strangers had been very traumatic and an experience she was still recovering from.
Detective Sergeant Aine Grogan told Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, that a man awoke from sleep to find an intruder in his apartment shortly after 3am on July 17, 2019.
The intruder, Elghynaoui, left when challenged.
Gardai were alerted and it was discovered an Apple Mac laptop had been taken.
Elghynaoui then made his way to the woman’s ground floor apartment, which she shared with two friends, each having separate bedrooms.
She had left her bedroom window slightly ajar but had believed it was locked in position. The trial heard it was possible to gain entry through the window.
During the trial the woman described how she awoke in her bed to the sensation of someone on top of her kissing her face. She screamed, struggled and succeeded in jumping from the bed but Elghynaoui threw her to the floor and put his hands on her throat more forcefully.
The woman said she believed she was going to die and fought back by trying to get her thumbs into his eyes, kneeing him in the groin and, when he put his hand over her mouth to silence her, she bit down. She drew blood which she spat out.
Elghynaoui got off her and she prepared to run for the bedroom door. She said as she did Elghynaoui put his fingers quite forcefully into her vagina. She described this as having the force of an open-handed blow.
She managed to push him away and ran for the door but found it was locked.
“I thought that’s it, I am dead,” she said during the trial. She said she looked over her shoulder expecting to see the man coming but instead he was running away. She got out, slammed the door behind her and screamed to her flatmates that there was a man in the house.
Her last view of him was as he ran in the opposite direction to the window. He escaped onto the street. The woman and her flatmates hid in a courtyard in the apartment complex.
They alerted gardai and hailed at taxi using a mobile app. The taxi came a few minutes later and gardai, who had been investigating the earlier burglary, arrived at the same time. While enroute to the apartment the gardai had met Elghynaoui who gave his name, date of birth and moved on.
The woman discovered two mobile phones, an iPad, some jewellery and handbag had been stolen.
She was brought to a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) where she was examined and found numerous cuts and abrasions including to her neck and genital area, as well as a bit mark on her breast.
Elghynaoui was interviewed by gardai and admitted stealing items from the woman’s home but denied sexual assaulting the woman.
Det St Grogan agreed with Eoin Hardiman BL, defending, that Elghynaoui had volunteered his correct name when stopped and complied with all that was required of him in custody.
She agreed that Elghynaoui gave information that he took drugs and lived on the streets.
In her victim impact statement, the woman told the court that as well as the physical injuries she sustained, she also had to take medication to prevent sexually transmitted infections and prevent HIV, as well as having blood taken for a number of months until she got the all clear.
She said immediately after the offence she was in a state of shock and disassociation, which recurred at the SATU when the bite marks, accused man’s blood and cut to her vagina were discovered. She panicked that there might be other aspects of the attack she could not recall.
She said she developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and cannot bear to be touched, something that has caused heartbreak in her very close and tactile family. She says she cannot bear to be alone, needs someone with her at night and suffers violent nightmares and flashbacks.
She described how she suffers bad insomnia but is too frightened to take sleeping tablets because she is terrified of being unconscious and unable to defend herself if attacked.
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, submitted that while there had not been a guilty plea in relation to the burglary and sexual assault at the woman’s house the case had been conducted in such a way as to minimise trauma to the woman.
He asked that his client’s guilty pleas in relation to the other burglaries be taken into account.
Mr O’Higgins said personal detail about his client was scant and getting instructions from Elghynaoui had been difficult. He said he believed this was not out of malice but borne of a deep distrust of anyone in authority.
He said Elghynaoui was a Moroccan national, having left there when he was 16 and moved to Spain where he did odd jobs. He then moved to Brussels, and onto the UK for a number of years before coming to Ireland in 2017.
He said his client had been living an aimless and rootless existence at the time of the offending, staying in a dilapidated squat and was not on social welfare.
He said he did not advance intoxication as mitigation but did refer to it to explain his client’s actions in circumstances where they appear to be significantly out of character.