8 August 2023

Customer allegedly raped in back of a Belconnen arts store

| Albert McKnight

Abhishek Timalsina has been charged over an alleged rape at Belconnen Westfield. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to an alleged sexual assault.

A store employee is accused of raping a customer after inviting her into the back room of a Belconnen art shop, leaving her feeling “sick and disgusted”.

Abhishek Timalsina, who is also known as ‘Abhi’, has pleaded not guilty to six charges accusing him of sexually assaulting the woman in November 2022, jurors heard when his ACT Supreme Court trial began on Monday (7 August).

She had been browsing the store when he closed the shutters at the entrance around 5 pm to stop other customers from coming in, prosecutor Trent Hickey alleged.

She told him she could return to the store another day, but he allegedly told her not to worry and they started a conversation about art, during which he claimed he was a photographer.

He allegedly asked if she wanted him to take a photo of her and, while she said no at first, she said he “pushed” her and claimed he would delete it afterwards.

“I felt uncomfortable and said ‘okay’,” she told police in an interview that was played to jurors.

Mr Timalsina led the woman into a backroom of the store where he allegedly asked if she wanted to kiss, then before she had a chance to respond, he said, “I’m just going to go for it”.

It is alleged he sexually assaulted her then raped her twice.

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The woman alleged that after he sexually assaulted her and before he raped her, she spoke to him.

“I thought he was just going to do it and I guess my main concern at the time was pregnancy and I asked him if he had protection at least,” she said.

She said she couldn’t understand what he replied, but believed he said, “It’s okay”.

She alleged she felt “scared” at one stage during the incident and also said she “stopped resisting”.

Mr Hickey said an expert would tell jurors about a freeze and surrender or negotiate type of response that occurred in some people who experienced a sexual assault.

Later, after the alleged assault, the woman drove to hospital and sat in the carpark and cried before going in for a medical examination.

She told friends about her allegations and reported them to police.

Mr Hickey said police searched the arts store and spoke to Mr Timalsina, who claimed he’d had consensual sex with the woman and said he “thought they were vibing and connecting”.

The prosecutor said Mr Timalsina also allegedly told them that if she’d pushed him then he would have stopped, but said there was no conversation about consenting to sex.

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Defence barrister John Purnell SC told jurors he did not deny his client had sex with the woman, but said the case was “all about consent”.

He said jurors had to ask several questions, including whether his client believed she was consenting due to what she had allegedly done.

“Consent can be given non-verbally,” he said.

“Consent can be communicated by doing or not doing certain things, or saying or not saying certain things.”

He said a critical issue was whether she had talked to his client about whether he had protection or not.

Mr Purnell also said the alleged events took place over a very short timeframe, being between four and a half and five minutes.

Mr Timalsina, who is in his late 20s, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and four counts of committing an act of indecency without consent.

The trial continues before Justice Verity McWilliam.

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