Man denies city centre rape and sex assault

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A 38-year-old man has gone on trial accused of orally raping and sexually assaulting a woman last year in Belfast city centre.

Pondai Bamu, with an address in Johnstone Mews, Newcastle upon Tyne in England, denies attacking the woman in a shop doorway on September 24, 2015 while she waited for a lift home from her boyfriend.

Prosecution counsel Rosemary McCormick QC told Belfast Crown Court Bamu admitted being with the girl, and claimed that anything which occured was consensual.

The jury of seven men and five women also heard that while Bamu also admitted running away when the woman’s boyfriend showed up, he did so fearing he was about to be attacked.

Ms McCormick said the woman had been out drinking with two female friends, but became separated from them in the early hours of the morning, and was found by a “good samaritan” sitting in High Street beside Dunnes Stores not far from McDonald’s, the contents of her handbag lying around her.

“It was clear to him,” said the lawyer, “that this young woman was extremely drunk.”

He helped her telephone her mother and then her boyfriend, but attempts to get her a taxi failed.

At some stage he was joined by Bamu, a work colleague, who suggested that they take her to the other man’s home, but he declined.

Ms McCormick said while the two men initially headed to a nearby McDonald’s for food, Bamu left his colleague and was seen on CCTV heading back towards where the woman had been.

“It is the prosecution case,” she added, “he went to find her ... he did find her.” The lawyer said the woman’s recollection of what happened “is shaky ... clearly she was a very drunk young woman”.

However, she managed to talk to her boyfriend on the phone, telling him that a “weird man was following her”. CCTV from the area showed the woman running barefoot, followed by Bamu, who allegedly caught up with her in the shop doorway.

Ms McCormick said the woman was wearing an all-in-one play suit and in a doorway Bamu sexually assaulted her before forcing her to perform a sex act on him.

Ms McCormick told the jury that after parking his car in Chichester Street, the woman’s boyfriend went looking for her in High Street.

He was unable to find her in High Street, but heard her screams, and recognising her voice, followed it. In nearby Rosemary Street he saw her on the ground, and ran towards her while shouting at a man with her. The man then ran off in the direction of Royal Avenue.

Bamu was arrested two months later in England. During police interviews, Bamu, who is originally from Zimbabwe, said he had gone to Newcastle to look for work as the company he worked for in Belfast was shedding jobs.

Bamu told police he was drunk, but was “happy and in a party mood”. He admitted talking to the woman, but said that anything which happened, “it was her idea”.

He also claimed when confronted by a man shouting “dead man running ... he was frightened he would be beaten up”, and ran off.

At hearing.