Pantless diplomat returns to court

  • 11/12/2015
Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail (Simon Wong/3 News)
Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail (Simon Wong/3 News)

By Emma Jolliff and Ranjani Ponnuchetty

The behaviour and mental health of a former Malaysian diplomat who pleaded guilty to indecent assault had deteriorated so much staff at the high commission thought he needed to be returned to Malaysia to get help, his lawyer says.

In the third day of a disputed facts hearing at the Wellington High Court, Muhammad Rizalman Bin Ismail's lawyer Dr Donald Stevens QC claimed there was no suggestion he tried to kiss victim Tania Billingsley, touch her inappropriately or take her clothes off.

He had simply entered her house in May last year after a "toilet emergency" in which he defecated on her front porch.

He claimed that if Rizalman's intention was to physically overpower her he would easily have done so with his military background and training.

But the Crown said Rizalman's entry to the house was sexually motivated, and that he entered the victim's bedroom with his genitals exposed after having misread eye contact with the victim.

Rizalman pleaded guilty last week after he went into Ms Billingsley's home without wearing any trousers or underwear in May last year.

Earlier today, Crown lawyer Grant Burston argued the 39-year-old was in an abnormal state of mind because he was fuelled by drugs.

"He didn't get that this young woman wasn't actually going to be interested in sex with him, the basis for him misreading is that he had been smoking drugs."

Rizalman admits he bought synthetic cannabis but denies ever using it.

Dr Stevens claimed his client actually suffered from a mental illness when he committed the crime.

He says he had depression because of work pressures and not because he was on drugs.

"Immediately after the incident, [Rizalman] told two police officers that he lost his mind," Dr Stevens said.

In a statement read to the court, Rizalman's wife said his behaviour had changed when he moved to New Zealand.

The woman, a registered nurse, says her husband was always happy and cheerful when he was in Malaysia.

But the problems started to emerge when he took up his posting in Wellington. He became lethargic, he was sleepy all the time, she said he had heart palpitations and his heart would ultimately race.

She says his behaviour changed; some days he was okay and other days he was not.

"He would frequently have very little memory of the events that would take place on the days he was not okay."

Rizalman has been remanded on his existing bail and will be sentenced on February 2.

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