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Man convicted in decades-old B.C. sexual assault case

A file photo shows a statue inside the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C. A file photo shows a statue inside the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C.
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Warning: This story includes details of a sexual assault that readers may find disturbing.

A man has been found guilty of raping a woman after breaking into her Metro Vancouver home nearly 22 years ago, according to a decision handed down Monday.

Christopher Sharafi was convicted of one count of sexual assault and one count of breaking and entering a dwelling house and committing an indictable offence in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. The woman's identity is protected by a publication ban.

At a trial earlier this year, the court heard that the victim, identified by the initials I.F.K., woke up in her home in the early hours of Dec. 1, 2001, to find a man standing in her bedroom.

"The room was dark. The man, whom she did not recognize, lay on the bed beside her. There was a struggle. He punched her and pulled her off the bed. While holding her down, he pulled off her pyjama bottoms and panties and pulled down his jeans," the judge's decision says, adding that the woman was then raped without a condom.

As soon as I.F.K. believed the man had left her home, she fled – running to a nearby convenience store wearing only a pyjama top – and called police.

Sharafi was not charged until 2020, according to the judge's decision. The court heard that a man's DNA was found on a vaginal swab done during a sexual assault exam at Vancouver General Hospital in the hours after the assault.

Sharafi's DNA was tested in 2015 when he was "incarcerated on unrelated matters" and it matched the sample collected from the rape kit. The decision does not explain the delay between the sample being taken and charges being laid.

In her decision, Justice Nitya Iyer said that the Crown and defence agreed on two key facts of the case; that the woman was sexually assaulted by a man who broke into her home through a window in a downstairs laundry room, and that Sharafi's DNA was found on the vaginal swab.

"The central issue in this case is whether the Crown has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Sharafi was the complainant’s assailant. As the defence does not dispute that the complainant was assaulted by the person who broke into her home, both counts on the indictment stand or fall on the answer to that question," the judge wrote.

While the victim told the court she did not know or recognize her assailant, Sharafi claimed that he had met her on the evening of the attack and had consensual sex with her in a van parked outside of a bar where she was celebrating a bachelorette evening with friends.

"I do not believe Mr. Sharafi’s account of the evening," the judge wrote.

In dismissing the defence that the DNA could be explained by a consensual sexual encounter, the judge also said it was "not possible that I.F.K.’s friends would have failed to notice her absence from the bar during the period Mr. Sharafi says they were outside and in his van."

While the judge agreed that the victim's description of her attacker did not match Sharifi's appearance and that she could not positively identify him as the assailant, the decision noted that this issue was not central to the case.

"Importantly, the Crown’s case does not rest on I.F.K.’s identification evidence. The evidence that she was attacked and sexually assaulted by an intruder is not disputed, nor is the fact that Mr. Sharafi’s DNA was recovered from the vaginal swab taken from I.F.K. after the assault. It positively identifies Mr. Sharafi as having had intercourse with I.F.K. that night," Iyer wrote.

Ultimately, the court rejected Sharafi's explanation for how his DNA ended up on the vaginal swab and convicted him of both crimes.

"Assessing the evidence as a whole, I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of Mr. Sharafi’s guilt," Iyer said.

Sharafi is next due in court on Nov. 15 to fix a date for sentencing, according to the BC Prosecution Service.

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