Cab driver raped passenger and stole her ATM card
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, July 22, 2010 4:48PM PDT
A Vancouver taxi driver has been found guilty of raping a passenger who was too drunk to fight back, and then stealing her debit card to withdraw almost $1,000 from her bank account.
Yellow Cab driver Baljit Singh Aulakh was convicted of sexual assault in B.C. Supreme Court on June 29. He had already pled guilty to two counts of theft.
According to court documents, the victim was 19 years old when she was raped in the backseat of a cab in the early morning hours of October 7, 2007.
The woman -- called K.R. in the judge's decision -- had been drinking with friends at the Roxy in downtown Vancouver, but was kicked out after she vomited inside the nightclub. Her friends hailed Aulakh's cab, gave him $20 and sent K.R. to a friend's apartment in Burnaby.
K.R. testified that she only remembered the details of the rape the next morning, when her friend asked why the taxi ride had taken so long.
At some point during the trip to Burnaby, Aulakh pulled over the cab in a secluded area; K.R. said that she was unable to yell or fight back as she was raped.
When Aulakh finally dropped her off at her friend's building, she accidentally gave him her ATM card instead of a credit card to pay the fare. He said he needed her PIN to process the transaction, but did not return the card.
Aulakh admitted in court to making two withdrawals worth a total of $960 plus fees from K.R.'s account shortly after taking the card.
When K.R. realized what had happened to her, she reported the assault to police and was examined at Vancouver General Hospital, where a doctor discovered a large tear on her vaginal opening.
The doctor testified in court that it was the biggest tear she had ever seen, and could not have been caused by consensual sex -- even if it were very rough sex.
Defence lawyers argued that someone besides Aulakh could have raped K.R. while the cab was stopped. Although the taxi was equipped with a security camera programmed to take regular photographs of the vehicle's interior, the camera's lens had been covered with the passenger-side sun visor.
But Judge William Ehrcke rejected that argument, writing that the defence's theory, "is not supported or even suggested by any evidence in this case."
A spokeswoman for Yellow Cab was not available to comment on the case. However, the company says that security cameras in its cabs are currently located on the windshield by the rearview mirror, where they can't be covered by the cars' visors.
Daisy Kler, a crisis counsellor with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, told ctvbc.ca that she hasn't heard of many examples of cab drivers assaulting passengers.
But she said it's not uncommon for men to exploit opportunities for sexual assault presented while they're at work.
"When sexual assault happens, it occurs by men of all different professions," Kler said. "If he has regular access to women, he could take advantage of that."