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Woman says former Halifax cab driver raped her after she pretended to pass out

Former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi is seen during a break in his trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court Thursday February 20, 2020.  Today was the first day of his sexual assault trial for an alleged incident in December 2012.
Former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi is seen during a break at his trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Thursday. It was the first day of his sexual assault trial for an alleged incident in December 2012. - Tim Krochak

WARNING: This article contains details that some may find disturbing.

 A woman testified she thought closing her eyes and lying motionless would stop her from being raped by a Halifax taxi driver at his apartment in December 2012. 

On the first day of the sexual assault trial of former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Thursday, the Pictou County woman detailed her trip to Halifax. 

The 35-year-old complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was in Halifax on Dec. 14, 2012, for a business lunch. 

From there, she met up with a group of friends for beers at The Maxwell's Plum pub, before heading to a Korean BBQ restaurant where they had dinner reservations. 

After dinner, the group went to a Halifax Mooseheads game, where the complainant had at least two beer. She said she was starting to feel the effects of the alcohol during the game, because she was having trouble texting her brother, whom she planned to stay with later that night. 

After the game, the complainant and some of her friends headed to the Split Crow Pub and ordered pitchers of beer to share.  

“I was definitely drunk when I was at the Split Crow,” she testified, adding she doesn’t remember how much she had to drink. 

“My memory started to become fuzzy at the time.” 

The complainant said from there, she remembers being outside and starting to walk back to her brother’s apartment, but she didn’t know where she was going.

“I remember being disoriented and lost, so I was trying to walk to my brother’s but I was lost. I don’t know how long I was lost for or where I was walking,” she said.

The next thing she remembers is being in a taxi, but she doesn’t remember how she got there. 

The cab driver took her to her brother’s apartment building, about two minutes away, but the complainant couldn’t get ahold of her brother and she didn’t have a key so the driver drove around because he didn’t want to leave her alone outside in the cold, she testified. 

After driving away, the complainant recalled being on the highway and then pulling into a parking garage attached to an apartment building. 

Video footage from a surveillance camera in a parking garage and apartment building lobby show a man and a woman, who the complainant said looks to be wearing clothes that she owns. 

“My walking appears staggered, a little bit zig-zaggy. Unstable,” the complainant said of herself in the video. 

When she got to the driver’s unit, he took out some cannabis and asked her to roll a joint.

“I attempted to roll it, but said 'I’m too drunk to do this,'” she testified, noting she took at least two drags. 

She said she texted her brother a couple of times, saying “I’m at a sketchy place,” and “cab rando picked me up.” 

From there, she remembers being in the bedroom, but doesn’t know how she got there.

“When I was in the bedroom, I realized I was in a bad situation and I didn’t want to be there,” she said.

In fear, she lay on the bed and pretended to pass out.

“I closed my eyes and stayed motionless,” she said. 

“I thought if I pretended to pass out, he would leave me to sleep.” 

But the driver removed her pants, blouse, bra and underwear and penetrated her vagina with his penis. 

The complainant said she didn’t move, open her eyes or say anything as he raped her. 

“I realized my plan didn’t work,” she said.

“I think I thought if I didn’t participate, he would stop.” 

But after she lay there motionless and silent, the complainant said she felt the man trying to have anal sex. She said she then blocked him with her hand and said, “woah.” 

She said the driver told her to get on top of him, which she did briefly before flopping off to the side. He also attempted to put his penis in her mouth, but she didn’t open it.

The complainant told Crown attorney Carla Ball she never consented to any sexual activity with the driver, adding at points she complied because she felt scared it was “going to escalate or get more violent.” 

The complainant said she doesn’t remember how it all ended, but the driver stopped about 15 minutes later. She then went to the bathroom and threw up several times, before she returned to his bed and fell asleep. She woke up at about 10 a.m. on Dec. 15.

Ball questioned why the complainant didn’t leave earlier.

“I didn’t feel like I had any options other than to stay where I was until daytime and I sobered up and could leave,” she said. 

“I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.” 

The complainant said she put on her clothes, grabbed her belongings from the living room and left the apartment building. 

She said she didn’t recognize where she was when she went outside, so she walked down the street to the closest business to call a cab to take her to her brother’s residence. 

The cab picked her up from the baby store and drove her to her brother’s, but she didn’t get out because she “wasn’t ready to tell him what happened.” 

So she asked the driver to take her to her friend’s place, where she told him she had had nonconsensual sex the night before. They met up with another friend, who suggested she call 811, the provincial health information and advice line, after hearing about the incident. 

The complainant called 811 before driving back to her home. She lay on the couch for a few hours, feeling nauseous and hungover, before heading to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow to have a sexual assault kit done. 

She said it was an uncomfortable experience that lasted about an hour and a half.

On Dec. 18, she went to the New Glasgow police station to file a police report, but was told she needed to give her statement to Halifax Regional Police.

“I went to my car and cried. I felt defeated,” she said, but added she felt the police were wrong, so she gave her statement to the local RCMP detachment. 

The complainant said "no" when Ball asked if she could identify anyone in the courtroom as the cab driver.

Other than describing him as a Middle Eastern man with short “close to his skull” hair and no facial hair, she said she couldn’t provide any other details of the driver. 

Al-Rawi looked on, at times taking notes and looking at his interpreter’s notes, as the complainant testified. 

The judge-alone trial, heard by Justice Gerald Moir, is expected to sit for 11 days. 

In March 2017, Al-Rawi was acquitted of sexual assault in relation to an incident in his cab in May 2015. 

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, saying the first judge, who said “clearly, a drunk can consent,” made errors in law. Al-Rawi was acquitted again in September 2019. 

Defence lawyer Ian Hutchison will cross-examine the complainant Friday. 

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