15 July 2022

Man accused of assaulting sleeping women, tearing their hair out, said it was 'hard on him'

| Albert McKnight

James Dudley March (right) is escorted by police to the Canberra police station. Photo: ACT Policing.

A man who crept into the house of two women while they slept, tore out their hair, refused to let them leave and forced them to shower to cover his tracks allegedly remarked that the whole event had been “really hard on him”.

The allegations are contained in recently tendered court documents, which outline the accusations against 35-year-old James Dudley March.

March remains in custody after pleading guilty over the incident, but it was not immediately clear which charges he had confessed to.

He was originally charged with two counts of assault, unlawful confinement and threatening a participant in a criminal investigation, as well as one count of burglary.

The documents say the two women were asleep in their Ainslie home in the early hours of 4 March 2022 when March climbed inside through an unlocked bathroom window.

One woke to find the stranger in her bedroom and he asked her: “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”.

She told him to leave but he began climbing on top of her and lay on her bed, as she screamed for help.

Her housemate arrived, but March told her: “It’s okay, it’s okay, nothing’s wrong”.

He allegedly continued to refuse to leave, forced both women onto a bed, said: “I’m going to have to do this”. He then grabbed both by the hair and pushed them facedown onto the bed.

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The women fought back and one yelled at a nearby iPhone, “Hey Siri, call the police”, but this did not work. The documents said she thought she was going to be “beaten, raped or murdered or all three”.

The documents allege that after the struggle, in which the women had clumps of hair ripped from their heads, March let go, but refused to let them escape.

He started talking to them and told them he was part of a gang who had placed a hit on the house, but he had realised they weren’t the people he was after.

The woman were afraid and shaking, so March offered one a hug. She refused.

He allegedly forced the women to take showers because he said his fingerprints were on them and they needed to be washed off.

March allegedly told the women if they went to the police there would be a “target on their back” and people would come after them and him.

As he continued to talk, he said he needed to rest and wind down because the experience had been “really hard on him”.

Before he left, he allegedly made one of the women empty a glass of water she’d poured for him and wipe the glass down in front of him.

Afterwards, the women secured their home then went to seek help from a friend. Both had scratches, bruises and hair torn from their heads.

March was arrested in Bondi, NSW, in May and was extradited to the ACT.

The documents were tendered to the ACT Magistrates Court this week during a discussion over whether March should be sentenced in the magistrates or supreme courts.

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Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna sought for him to be sent to the higher court, arguing he had committed a number of serious offences and already been convicted of similar offending.

Jonathan Cooper of the Aboriginal Legal Service said his client wanted to be sentenced by the circle sentencing court, called the Galambany Court, which would mean he would remain in the jurisdiction of the magistrates court.

“I find myself torn on the issue,” Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said.

She said March would be assessed to see if he was suitable to be sentenced in the Galambany Court in August, then the matter would return to her for determination on 14 September.

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