Umbelino Filho

'Not a shred of humanity': sentences totalling 66 years over gang rape of girl (17)

(Pictured: Marcos Vinicius De Silva Umbelino (L) and Eduardo Dias Ferreira Filho (R). Photo: Collins)

Five men who took part in the gang rape of a 17-year-old Leaving Cert student have been jailed for a combined total of 66 years.

Ms Justice Tara Burns said that the men, who were aged 17 to 19 at the time, “behaved like animals” on the night of December 27, 2016. She said there was “not a shred of humanity or respect” in their actions.

She said that the rapes and sexual assaults committed by the men involved “degradation of the most extreme nature,” and that even without the use of violence, “the act of a gang rape is offending behaviour of the most serious kind”.

Ms Justice Burns said that in this case, “the gang rape was accompanied by filming” where a “gang of men” stood around outside a car in which a young woman was being violated.

“This depravity is absolutely shocking,” she said.

In her victim impact, which she read aloud in court, the woman told the men: “You have made me feel like I wasn’t even a human being. What you did has stripped me of all that I am, and has rot me to the core. How could you take pleasure in doing something so horrific to another person?”

The court heard that after picking up the Leaving Cert student on a street in a midlands town in the early hours of December 27, 2016 the men drove her to a remote dry dock in Co Westmeath.

Gabriel Gomes Da Rocha (24) of Mount Armstrong, Rahan, Tullamore, Marcos Vinicius De Silva Umbelino (22) of Riverview, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath and Conor Byrne (24) of Ballybeg, Moate, Co Westmeath then took turns raping the girl, one after another.

Ethan Nikolaou (23) of Brosna Park, Kilbeggan was the fourth man to get back into the car and after grinding naked against her, he sexually assaulted her.

The woman said she froze and felt paralysed and sad as the attacks went on. At one point, the girl saw flashing lights being put up to the windows of the parked car and realised that some of the men outside the car were recording the rapes on the mobile phone cameras.

The five men got back into the car and, on the journey back into Tullamore, the girl was visibly upset and sobbing.

After dropping two men off, Umbelino drove the car to a carpark. The girl pleaded to be let out but she was held in the car by Da Rocha and the fifth man, Eduardo Dias Ferreira Filho (24) of Riverview, Kilbeggan.

They repeatedly asked her for a threesome and she repeatedly said no. Ferreira Filho then orally raped her at the same time as Da Rocha raped her in what was his second rape of the night.

After this they let the girl out of the car. CCTV footage played during the trial showed the girl running hysterically to the area where her male friend lived and calling out his name. She was dishevelled and in shock and her friend and other young men at the house urged her to go to gardaí.

Ms Justice Burns said that the assistance and comfort provided by these men shone like a beacon against the other events of the night. She said these men, her friends, were “great men” that night, unlike the defendants.

Passing sentence at the Central Criminal Court on Thursday afternoon, Ms Justice Burns imposed a sentence of 15 years on Umbelino. She sentenced Ferreira Filho to an 18-year prison term.

She sentenced Da Rocha, who had raped the girl twice, to 20 years. She sentenced Nikolaou to seven years’ imprisonment for the sexual assault carried out in the context of the gang rapes.

Ms Justice Burns suspended the final year of all these sentences and also imposed sentences, to run concurrent to the other sentences, for a number of sexual assaults committed during the car journey from Tullamore to Kilbeggan. The woman had described how the men groped and molested her and hands were coming everywhere as she tried to push them away.

Ms Justice Burns sentenced Byrne to 12 years and suspended the final two years, taking into consideration the fact that he had pleaded guilty to rape rather than go to trial. The total operative sentences to be served by the five men amounts to a combined 66 years.

The judge said that the men had not shown “a shred of humanity or respect, fundamentally required for a functioning society,” in their actions on the night.

She said that after their arrest and during the trial, the men had “peddled the lie” that they believed she had consented to the sexual activity.

Ms Justice Burns said that “women are not playthings” and “consent is not a decision for the perpetrators.”

“Because a woman doesn’t call out or fight does not mean she is consenting. How was she to know what would become of her if she fought back or attempted to escape?” she said.

While accepting that additional violence was not used in this case, she rejected out-of-hand submissions by the defence that the offences fell into the mid-range category as set down in case law.

She said the nature of the rapes, one after the other in front of other men who either had or would go on to rape the girl, was “degradation of the most extreme level”.

“The act of a gang rape is offending behaviour of the most serious kind,” she said, adding that it was aggravated by films being taken while a young woman was being violated against her will in front of a “gang of men” who had raped and would rape her.

“This depravity is absolutely shocking,” she said.

The attacks happened on the night of St Stephen’s Day going into the following morning. The victim and female friends had gone into the midlands town for what Justice Burns said is a special night for people from the country where friends, many of who were coming home for Christmas, would meet up again.

Ms Justice Burns said the girls had a few drinks but nothing that could be described as excessive. At the end of the night, food was sought “as usual”. The victim wanted to go to a different takeaway to her friends and they separated.

The woman met some male friends in this takeaway and they invited her to a gathering in their house outside the town but she decided to call it a night and went to a taxi rank. But waiting a while in vain for a taxi she gave up and decided to walk to the friends’ home outside the town.

She heard someone calling her name out from a passing car and, wrongly concluding it was her friends driving back in to pick her up, she got into the car. Justice Burns said it was then that the girl’s nightmare began.

On Monday last, the woman told the court that she “hated” herself and felt “stupid” for innocently getting into the car, assuming it was driven by her friends. Ms Justice Tara Burns told the woman that “she wasn’t stupid or naïve”.

“She was in a small country town where she thought she was safe. Even if it wasn’t her friends coming back for her, she could reasonably assume that boys her own age from the same area would get her home.

“She was entitled to assume that society works in a civilised fashion where there is respect for a female. Little did she know that she had gotten into a car with people devoid of respect for her or for themselves.”

After a trial that ran for six weeks from March to April last, the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on a number of charges from sexual assault to rape.

Apart from Byrne, the defendants had denied the charges and had asserted during the trial that any sexual activity was consensual. Lawyers for Da Rocha, Ferreira Filho and Nikolaou told the court on Monday that their clients now accept the jury verdict and are remorseful.

Justice Burns noted that Umbelino has not expressed any remorse and has not stated any view of the jury decision.

Speaking directly to the victim, who sat in court surrounded by her family, Justice Burns told her that “you are an absolutely amazing young woman” who had conducted herself with great dignity throughout the trial and sentence hearings.

Ms Justice Burns also paid tribute to the woman’s “strong supportive family” and her “wonderful friends”, including the men who had helped her on the night.

She noted that the sexual assaults committed by four of the men on the journey to the remote dry dock were aggravated by the fact that others were in the car at the same time and were also assaulting her at the same time.

Ms Justice Burns said the fact the woman was visibly upset and saying “stop” was also aggravating. She imposed sentences of four and a half years for these assaults, to run concurrent to the longer sentences.

Sentencing Umbelino, she said that testimonials handed into court spoke well of him but noted his lack of remorse. She suspended the final year of an 18-year-sentence on condition he keep the peace and engage with the Probation Service for two years after his release.

Ms Justice Burns noted that Ferreira Filho was an acting father to his partner’s child and had recently had a newborn child with this woman. She said the evidence is that he was a hard worker and a good provider. She said he has no previous convictions and accepts the jury verdicts and does not intend to appeal.

She imposed a 20-year prison term for the oral rape carried out by him at the second location, saying this rape and the simultaneous rape by Da Rocha were the most serious of all the attacks on the night. She said they were both carried out in the context where Ferreira Filho and Da Rocha were falsely imprisoning the woman.

Ms Justice Burns reduced the 20-year term to 18 years to take mitigating factors into consideration, and suspended the final year.

She set a headline sentence of 22 years for the oral rape by Da Rocha, noting he already raped the girl earlier that night. Noting the mitigating factors of his expressions of remorse and his lack of relevant previous convictions, she reduced the sentence to 20 years and suspended the final year.

Dealing with Byrne, she said that his plea of guilty was the single most significant mitigating factor. She noted that the victim herself had stated that this plea, while coming at the eleventh hour, was of some relief, was vindicating and had lifted a weight from her just as the trial of the other men was about to begin.

She noted Byrne was a man with a tragic background who had cared for both his parents in their dying days and was left managing a difficult situation on a small family farm.

Ms Justice Burns said the testimonials on his behalf came from all parts of the community. She said that while the referees expressed abhorrence with his actions on the night and great sympathy for the victim, they also felt compelled to speak of Byrne’s other qualities.

The judge said he had clearly been an extremely good and kind son to his parents and was spoken of very highly.

“He really was quite an upstanding man. It’s unthinkable that he involved himself in this on the night in question. It is such a shame that he has let himself down in this manner,” she said.

Ms Justice Burns said that it seemed to her that the man described in the testimonials was not the man who involved himself in this crime. She said she was giving him the full credit she could for his plea, despite its late hour. She said she recognised that it could not have been an easy step to plead guilty while the other men continued to deny their guilt.

“He had run with the pack on the night of the rape. It must have been difficult to stand on his own,” she said. She said that he had done the right thing in the end and there was some redemption to be found for him in doing that.

Ms Justice Burns said it seemed that because of family difficulties, Byrne had put a lot of people ahead of himself throughout his life and that perhaps he got left behind.

“Perhaps there was another side to him that people just weren’t aware of and people are shocked and disgusted by that now,” she said. Byrne sat with his head hanging throughout the proceeding.

She reduced a headline sentence of 18 years to 12 years to take these mitigating factors into consideration, and suspended the final two years on condition he keep the peace.

Sentencing Nikolaou, Ms Justice Burns noted that he had written a letter of apology to the victim and had brought €30,000 to court as a token of remorse. She noted that only €4,000 of this was personally raised by him and that the rest came from his step-father.

She said that assurances that he would pay off this debt by working for free on his step-father’s farm after his release from prison were lacking in detail. She noted it was unclear whether character referees from the local community were aware of the reason for the references and of the convictions.

But, she said, they did establish his involvement in football and in the farming community and she would take this into consideration. Justice Burns noted Nikolaou’s acceptance of the jury verdict and the fact that he does not intend to appeal the verdicts.

She said Nikolaou was the fourth man to assault the girl in the car at the dry dock and that the sexual assault he then carried out was in the context where three other men had just raped her.

Ms Justice Burns said this placed this sexual assault at the higher end of the range of this offence, which comes with a maximum penalty of ten years. She noted also the sexual assault took place after he had been grinding his naked penis up against her naked vagina.

She said that the aggravating factors that she took into consideration in relation to the three rapes carried out before this assault all applied to this assault.

Ms Justice Burns set a headline sentence of nine years which she reduced to seven in light of the mitigating factors, including the remorse expressed.

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

Reading from her own victim impact statement and at times becoming overcome with emotion, the woman said she continued to hate and blame herself for innocently getting into the car that night.

“I blame myself for choosing to be selective about my food, for not staying with my friends…I still hate myself for getting into the car, innocently assuming it must be my friends,” she said.

She said she believed the car must have contained her friends coming back to take her home safely.

“I was so trusting and innocent, I allowed this to happen,” she said. She said she blamed herself for the stress caused to her family.

She said while the defence lawyers left her with her dignity, she found it difficult to be “badgered about the first time I said stop,” and about not fighting back.

“I am glad I didn’t become violent or fight back. Anytime I showed any bit of refusal I was met with more force. I think I made the right decision, given the situation I was in and the people I was with,” she said.

She said she went from being a studious person who believed, “If I worked hard enough, I could do what I wanted in life,” to someone who literally felt stupid.

She said the events of the night consumed her mind, “because I was so stupid to get into that car,” and she dropped out of a number of college courses.

She said the events of the night turned her life upside down. She has suffered from PTSD and said this can resurface in a completely unpredictable way.

“I felt like spoilt goods. I was robbed of my right to be a dignified human being in my own body,” she said. She said she felt at times like she was a dishevelled human being.

The court heard that before picking up the victim on the night in question, the car had driven 15 times around the midlands town with the occupants shouting at people from open windows. The court heard one of the men recognised the victim from social media, but none of the occupants in the car knew her personally and she knew none of them.

Once in the car, the girl realised she didn’t know any of the occupants. She asked them to drop her to a place in the county but instead the car drove along back roads towards Co Westmeath.

During this journey the girl, who had been instructed to lay across the laps of the three men sitting in the back seat, felt a hand moving inside her skirt. She became flustered and the front seat passenger Gabriel Gomes Da Rocha (24) then invited her to come into the front with him.

Da Rocha then began to fondle her and the girl felt hands reaching from the back and the side to grope her. She later told gardaí that the men were talking as if she wasn’t there and someone said: “Ah lads, she is good, we are all getting it tonight.”

She told gardaí that she kept pushing the hands away but the men continued to sexually assault her.

The jury convicted Da Rocha and Umbelino of raping her and found Nikolaou guilty of sexual assault at the remote dry dock. Byrne, of Ballybeg, Moate, Co Westmeath entered a guilty plea to rape the day before the woman was due to give evidence at a trial in February, which meant a new jury had to be sworn for a new trial a week later.

The car was then driven back into the midlands town and parked at a car-park, where one of the men asked the girl for a “threesome” and she said no.

The girl was crying and asked to leave the car but Da Rocha and Ferreira Filho stopped her getting out of the back seat of the car. The jury convicted these two of falsely imprisoning the girl.

Da Rocha then raped her again at the same time as Ferreira Filho forced his penis into her mouth. The jury convicted Da Rocha of a second count of rape while Ferreira Filho was found guilty of oral rape at the car-park.

The girl was finally released from the car and CCTV footage played during the trial recorded her running hysterically from the car park.

Lorcan Staines SC, prosecuting, told the court that after the rapes, Byrne sent text messages to a friend in which he discussed the four men “riding the same woman”. Byrne wrote: “She was fit, I blew my load in her….I became a lot closer with the boys.” He later texted, “there is some funny videos,” alongside four laughing face emojis.

The court heard that Umbelino recorded a video of Nikolaou sexually assaulting the girl. Byrne also admitted sending a Snapchat video to Ferreira Filho.

The jury took just under nine hours to reach unanimous guilty verdicts on a number of charges.

Speaking directly to Byrne, the woman told him that while it took him five years, he finally did the right thing by admitting his guilt. She told him that he had done “really wrong” by her.

“I will never be the same person after what you and your friends did,” she said.

“I do believe that after all this time you have recognised your guilt. I also believe the best way to move on is to forgive. I don’t think I will ever forgive the other four, but in time I will try my best to forgive you.

“In return I ask that you don’t let this be the defining moment of your life. Prove to others and yourself that you have learned from your wrongdoings and have become a better person.” She acknowledged his letter of apology but said she didn’t feel any better after reading it.

She said to the other four men, who had denied all the charges brought against them: “You give me no reason to address you by your name.

“All of you have made me feel like I wasn’t even a human being. What you did has stripped me of all that I am and rot me to the core. How could you take pleasure in doing something so horrific to another person?

“The part that really gets me is that four of you have shown absolutely no remorse for what you have done”.

In reference to the offer of €30,000 by Nikolaou for what his lawyers said is for “his remorse and regret, accepting the jury verdict”, she said he was trying to weasel his way of the consequences of his actions.

Noting that much was made during the trial of the young age of the men at the time of the offending, she said that she was legally a child at the time and that she her male friends were “17-year-old gentlemen who would not think of doing wrong to another human being.”

Lawyers for the five men handed in a large number of testimonials. Lorcan Staines SC, prosecuting, told Ms Justice Burns that some of the referees made no references to the fact that this was a letter for the court and he said the prosecution had difficulty with any weight being placed on such testimonials.

Hugh Harnett SC, defending Nikolaou, said the case was widely publicised in the locality. He handed in a number of testimonials from people associated with various organisations in the community.

He said his client has written a letter to the court in which he expressed his remorse and offered an apology to the victim.

Lawyers for Ferreira Filho, Da Rocha, Byrne and Nikolaou each told the court their clients accept the verdicts of the jury and wished to expressed their remorse.

Brendan Grehan SC, defending Umbelino, said he had limited instructions.

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