24 June 2022

Alleged bikie-nominee found guilty of raping social media influencer he met in nightclub

| Albert McKnight
Man walking to court

Chidi Chike Okwechime, 34, approaches court on Wednesday before being found guilty the next day. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses a sexual assault.

A man previously alleged to be a nominee for the Comancheros has been found guilty of raping a social media influencer he met in a nightclub in a brutal assault she described as “animalistic”.

The ACT Supreme Court jury trial of Chidi Chike Okwechime began earlier this month and lasted a week.

Jurors spent one day deliberating before, on Thursday (23 June), they unanimously returned guilty verdicts to two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and one count of choking.

However, they found him not guilty of two other counts of sexual intercourse without consent.

Okwechime’s bail was revoked with Acting Justice Stephen Norrish saying it was “inevitable” he would be remanded in custody due to the verdicts.

The 34-year-old blew a kiss to his supporters in the court’s gallery as he was led away by custody officers.

Earlier, the court had heard from barrister Steven Whybrow that after the jurors were sent out to deliberate on Wednesday, his client Okwechime had been “ambushed” by a camera crew from the current affairs program 60 Minutes along with their reporter Tara Brown as he left the courthouse and was crossing a road.

Mr Whybrow claimed the crew put a microphone in front of his client and asked why he wasn’t answering questions.

Acting Justice Norrish said it was “quite improper for him to be filmed in that way while the jury is deliberating”.

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In the victim’s interview with police, she said she had recently broken up with her ex-partner in May 2021 and was “pretty drunk” in the Civic nightclub Kokomo’s when, after asking an acquaintance where she could get cocaine, he introduced her to a group of tattoo-covered men, which included Okwechime.

She said she later wanted to go home but had dropped her phone in the toilet and it wasn’t working. She asked staff from another bar for a phone charger but claimed they told her they wouldn’t give her one unless it was an emergency.

She was invited to a house party by members of the group to recharge her phone. The unit they went back to was the home of a member of the Canberra Comancheros, but when they arrived, no one else was there.

A member of the gang and a woman went into a bedroom, leaving her and Okwechime on a couch. She said that was where he started sexually assaulting her before taking her into a bedroom and raping her.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I said ‘stop, get off me, I want to go home’,” she said.

She said when she kept telling him to stop, he told her something like, “I hate it when you say that. Stop saying that”.

He also choked her for about 15 seconds while she said, “I can’t breathe”, or “you’re killing me”.

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In the closing address by Mr Whybrow, he suggested jurors would have “real problems” with the reliability of the woman.

He claimed she lied, made inconsistent comments and had been “so cavalier with the truth”.

When it came to his client, who pleaded not guilty to all charges and had testified, he told jurors, “Nothing he said could give you a proper basis to reject his evidence”.

When Okwechime was arrested in 2021, court documents at the time alleged he was a nominee of the Comancheros; however, this allegation was untested in court.

He will be sentenced in the future.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900 and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.

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