London, Jan. 9: Compared with the Spanish holiday resorts, where revellers tend to get high on alcohol and drugs, Delhi at night is a relatively safe place for women — at least Cheryl Maddison will think so.
More than four years after the model was subjected to a vicious knife and rape attack on the holiday island of Majorca, Cheryl, now 25, gave evidence in a court in the provincial capital of Palma against the man accused of leaving her for dead.
Mohamed Fadel El Anssar, a 31-year-old Moroccan waiter, sat in court with his head in his hands.
Jaime Guasp, prosecuting, said Fadel, a cocaine addict, had tried to kill Cheryl with a seven-inch blade.
Cheryl was attacked in May 2008, only six days after the then 21-year-old had arrived at the holiday resort of Magaluf in Majorca from her home in Houghton le Spring, County Durham. The case was reopened by local police in 2010 when a second British woman was attacked. A tossed-away cigarette butt with incriminating DNA led to Fadel’s arrest in May last year.
The prosecution wants to put Fadel behind bars for 23 years. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and rape but is said to have admitted to police: “I am an evil man.”
The case illustrates women are not safe anywhere in Europe, even though some British commentators have used the Delhi gang rape as proof of the superiority of western culture. But young women working away from home are seen as easy targets.
In the sexually liberated climate of the Spanish holiday islands, Cheryl’s attacker might have thought he would get away with rape. He followed Cheryl to her apartment after she had done a shift in a bar, something that many young men and women do to earn money in the beach resorts.
Cheryl has been praised for her bravery by waiving her right to anonymity and giving evidence for 70 minutes in an open court before journalists so that her verbatim account can be reported as widely as possible. She was accompanied by her 21-year-old boyfriend, Kaine MacDonald, which is an indication that western society, by and large, does not hold rape victims even partly responsible for their own misfortune.
Speaking from behind a screen so that Fadel could not see her, Cheryl described the horrific night when, badly wounded and gushing blood, she survived by pretending to be dead.
Cheryl said Fadel followed her home to her apartment after she had finished work at a bar at 4am. “He followed me up the stairs,” said Cheryl. “He punched me and dragged me inside. He said, ‘Shhh... or I kill you’.”
She said Fadel assaulted her sexually on the balcony and put her in the shower before pushing her into the bedroom and raping her. “I bit and scratched him but then I passed out. When I woke up I was by myself in the bedroom. I was confused and crying. There was blood coming out my chest. That’s when he entered the room. He put a knife in my neck. It went right into my neck. I thought he wanted me to die. My breathing was making gargling sounds because he had stabbed me in the lung so I held my breath so he thought I wasn’t breathing any more. I pretended to be dead. It felt like forever.”
When her attacker fled, she used a pillow to stem the bleeding from multiple stab wounds and crawled out of her flat naked before collapsing in a pool of blood outside a nearby shop. She was unconscious by the time paramedics arrived to take her to hospital.
She underwent emergency surgery for wounds to her neck, throat, chest and back. She told the court she had therapy for the two years and was now terrified of being left on her own.
Cheryl was told she would get compensation if Fadel is found guilty. But she insisted: “I just want him to go to jail.”