CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses an alleged sexual assault.
During the ending of the trial of a man accused of raping a woman he met in a nightclub, his lawyer claimed she had lied, made inconsistent comments and had been “so cavalier with the truth”.
The jury trial for 34-year-old Chidi Chike Okwechime began in the ACT Supreme Court last week. He was accused of assaulting the woman after a night out in May 2021.
In her interview with police, she said she had recently broken up with her ex-partner 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 Mr Okwechime.
She said she wanted to go home but said she had dropped her phone in the toilet and it wasn’t working. She also asked bar staff for a phone charger, but she claimed they told her they wouldn’t give her one unless it was an emergency.
The woman was invited to a house party by members of the group to recharge her phone there, but when they arrived, no one else was at the house.
She said a man and a woman went into a bedroom, leaving her and Mr Okwechime on a couch. She alleged that was where he started sexually assaulting her before taking her into a bedroom and raping her.
Mr Okwechime’s barrister, Steven Whybrow, gave his closing address to the 12 jurors on Tuesday (21 June). He suggested they would have “real problems” with the reliability of the woman, who he said was an influencer.
“You can’t rely on anything that she said unless it is independently corroborated,” he said.
“She was chaotic, she was upset, she was heartbroken.”
He claimed that she displayed the “odd behaviour” of going up to a group of people she’d never met and demanding cocaine, while she had also made “derogatory” comments about them.
The woman said she dropped her phone into the toilet, but Mr Whybrow said three other people claimed she “threw” it in there deliberately, and when asked why she replied, “I’m a mad b-tch”.
Mr Whybrow said the woman said she had no romantic interest in Mr Okwechime, but he suggested she had been “flirting” with him, such as performing “dirty dancing”.
He said the other man in the house claimed he had seen Mr Okwechime hold his head in his hands before telling him, “She just said I raped her”.
“Nothing he said could give you a proper basis to reject his evidence,” he said of his client.
He said the woman could not explain how she got into the bedroom, had given an inconsistent account of one of the rape allegations and said she’d only had one line of cocaine, while others claimed she’d taken more.
Mr Okwechime has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual intercourse without consent and one count of choking.
The trial has been held before Acting Justice Stephen Norrish, who began his summing up of the case for the jurors on Tuesday afternoon.
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.