4 December 2022

'Woman's worst nightmare': housemates speak out after violent man invaded home as they slept

| Albert McKnight
officer takes offender into police station

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

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains details some may find distressing.

A man who crept into the home of two university students in the early hours of the morning before assaulting, detaining and forcing them to clean up evidence of his crimes committed what a justice called “a woman’s worst nightmare”.

The women, who had been sleeping when 35-year-old James Dudley March invaded their home in Ainslie on 4 March, 2022, gave statements explaining how his actions had affected them when he was hauled before the ACT Supreme Court for his sentence hearing on Friday (2 December).

“My sense of personal safety and security in my own home was completely shattered,” one of the women said.

“The idea of sleeping in that house again and in that bed where he attacked us was very distressing.”

In her statement, read to the court by a police officer, she said she suffered from vivid flashbacks, struggled to sleep and felt overwhelmed by the investigation and court proceedings.

She said she now felt “more safe and secure”, but was more “aware and alert as to my personal safety and the vulnerability which I have as a woman”.

Her housemate also gave a statement, reading it over an audiovisual link.

“I am determined not to let this crime affect the trajectory of my life, but even so I am nervous of going out alone at night,” she said.

“The main reason I am where I am now, relatively intact and stable, is because I felt like I have no other choice but to push through.”

She said they had only lived in the home for about two weeks before the home invasion, then decided they had to move. However, that didn’t stop the trauma she was enduring.

“I simply felt so overwhelmed and numb on the inside. I felt dead,” she said.

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March sat in the courtroom’s dock between two prison guards with his head tilted towards the ground.

Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson described the statements from both of the women as “eloquent”.

“It is a woman’s worst nightmare to be awoken in her home in that way and the court understands,” she said.

March jumped through the house’s bathroom window about 2 am and woke one of the women in her bedroom. She asked why he was in her house, but he didn’t reply and began climbing on top of her and lying in her bed so she screamed for help from her housemate.

He forced both women into one bedroom, told them words to the effect of, “I’m going to have to do this”, and dragged them around by their hair. They tried to fight back and screamed for help, but he became more aggressive and pushed them into a bed.

He eventually let them go, but didn’t let them leave. He forced them to shower because he said they needed to wash his fingerprints off them.

During their ordeal, he told them he needed to rest and wind down, because the experience had been “really hard on him”. He eventually left the house after warning them not to go to the police because it would put them at risk of dangerous people he was involved with.

The women suffered bruises and scratches and had their hair torn out.

Alyn Doig, the barrister for March, told the court his client had a troubled background, mental health issues and had spent the best part of 10 years in custody.

He said his client was appalled at the effect of his actions.

March was released from custody in January 2022 over another matter and Mr Doig said he hadn’t offended between when he left the ACT in March 2022 and May 2022 when he was arrested in Sydney.

“That is a small plus,” Mr Doig said.

“You can obviously concede it’s not a very long period,” Justice Loukas-Karlsson remarked.

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In court documents, Crown Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna noted March had been convicted on charges of sexual intercourse without consent and burglary in 2014 and said “the facts of those offences are remarkably similar” to this matter.

Mr Bargwanna argued that due to March’s extensive criminal history and the facts from the sexual assault, he “poses an extreme risk to the safety of the community”.

“The Crown submits that in the circumstances, the only way to keep the community safe from this offender is for him to remain imprisoned,” he said.

March pleaded guilty to two counts of assault, forcible confinement and threaten a participant in a legal proceeding as well as one count of burglary.

He has been in custody since his arrest in May and will be sentenced on 17 February, 2023.

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