Alleged Malaysian diplomat rape victim named

Last updated 21:47 09/07/2014
3rd Degree

The woman at the centre of the foreign diplomat's alleged rape case has spoken out about how the government handled the situation.

Tania Billingsley
3rd Degree/ TV3
NAMED: Tania Billingsley waived her right to name suppression.
Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail
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UNDERGOING PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT: Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail

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The woman at the centre of a case involving an alleged sex attack by a Malaysian diplomat says she is angry her alleged attacker was allowed to leave and is calling for Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully to resign.

In an interview with TV3’s 3rd Degree screened this evening, Tania Rose Billingsley, waived her right to name suppression which she had lifted in Wellington District Court this morning.

In the interview the 21-year-old does not detail her version of events but tells of her shock learning on her birthday — the day after the alleged attack — that Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail could leave.

‘‘I was frustrated and I was angry ... from the very beginning I said that I wanted him to stay in New Zealand and be held accountable here,’’ she told 3rd Degree.

On May 10 Rizalman was arrested on charges of burglary and assault with intent to commit rape in relation to an alleged attack at a Brooklyn home.

The same day the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a formal request that Rizalman, an assistant to the defence attache for the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington, waive diplomatic immunity to face charges.

Malaysia has said that at a meeting with Mfat representatives an alternative was offered for the accused to return to Malaysia.

Rizalman left on May 22, a day after Malaysia declined the request to waive immunity — asking for the police case to be sealed.

An independent inquiry will be conducted after McCully admitted Mfat’s ambiguity in the communications.

Prime Minister John Key’s office declined an interview with 3rd Degree, citing implications for the judicial process. McCully responded to the invitation saying he did not want to compromise the inquiry or criminal proceedings.

‘‘I have publicly apologised to the young woman whose distress has been aggravated by the poor management of this case. The terms for a full inquiry into the matter are being finalised.’’

Billingsley told 3rd Degree that she would like more than an apology from ‘‘incompetent’’ McCully.

‘‘He was so intent on trying to put responsibility and blame on everybody else that you know, I just feel like he wasn’t actually addressing and putting energy towards fixing what had happened,’’ she said. ‘‘I think he should resign.’’

It appeared he did not know how to do his job properly, she said.

‘‘He obviously doesn’t take sexual assault as a serious thing to consider.’’

She felt like her views had not been listened to, she told 3rd Degree.

‘‘The police have been good and they’ve definitely acknowledged in respect of where I’m coming from but at a higher level, there’s been no attempt to really honour what I want.’’

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Key has previously said that McCully would not be asked to resign as he had been let down by officials.

Mfat chief executive John Allen said he had given Billingsley a letter of apology this afternoon.

‘‘I deeply regret the distress caused to the woman at the centre of this incident’’ he said. ‘‘I have apologised to her publicly and by letter. In dealing with this issue the Ministry fell short of the standards expected of us. Our focus now is on performing the rest of our role in this matter to a high standard and on learning from the lessons that come out of the independent inquiry.’’

Rizalman is expected to return to New Zealand to potentially face trial. He has been undergoing psychiatric evaluation in a military hospital near Kuala Lumpur.

Billingsley told 3rd Degree her heart went out to his family.

‘‘This has probably been horrible and life-changing for them as well as me.’’

Billingsley believed the trauma she experienced had become a ‘‘backdrop’’ to political drama ‘‘instead of a really real and traumatic experience’’.

In an essay released on the 3rd Degree website, Billingsley spoke at length about her opinion of New Zealand society's reaction to sexual assaults as seen through the reaction of politicians to her case.

She said it was proof New Zealand's attitudes towards sexual violence needed to change.

"I would like to put a personal challenge to the Government," she said. "The fact that sexual violence is still so rampant in our society is proof in itself that you are not doing enough."

She said it was easy "to do a McCully" and avoid responsibility for the problem but "sexual violence is present in all parts of our society and therefore needs to be addressed by all parts of the Government. There have been recent actions towards addressing this but it is not enough."

Commentary on the circumstances of the alleged offending could prejudice the judicial process, Wellington District Commander Superintendent Sam Hoyle told Fairfax Media.

- The Dominion Post

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