This morning, Sampath Samaranayake has been found guilty of sexual assault and deprivation of liberty, in a Queensland district court.
Taking less than three hours, the jury has found that Sampath Sandaruwan Samaranayake, 44 posing as an Uber driver prowling Brisbane’s party precincts (like Sydney’s Kings Cross or Melbourne’s St Kilda or Chapel Street) guilty of sexually assaulted five different women on the ride home.
The crimes took place when Sampath Samaranayake prentding to be an Uber driver, managed to lure women into his car in the early hours of September 2018.
The jury also found Samaranayake assaulted the five women in separate attacks, forcing some of them to touch him on the ride home. Sampath in turn also touched, kissed and exposed himself to the women.
Sampath has been found guilty of 18 counts including sexual and indecent assault and deprivation of liberty.
The court was told Sampath applied to be an Uber driver for ride sharing but Uber rejected his application finding his 2007 Land Rover to be ‘too old’.
Rejected by Uber, he started his own ride sharing scheme, offering discounted rides for cash money.
Body conscious Sampath, a full-time chef told the court he needed the extra money for surgery to have skin folds removed.
Not connected to any network provider (rejected by Uber), Sampath would drive around Brisbane’s busy nightclub precinct looking for passengers waiting for Uber drivers and offered to take them home for a cash fee.
In the car, Sampath would chat up his passengers discussing his weight loss target and planned surgery options and the associated pressures on him.
He told the court the women enjoyed chatting with him, and his victims allegedly tried to touch him to comfort him.
“(One woman) was aggressive and said to me, ‘I understand your situation, no problem. I can help you’,” he told the jury on Wednesday, according to 7 News website.
“When I pull up my shirt, she can’t even see … my stomach is not like a normal stomach.
“I had to grab my stomach with both hands (to allow her to touch him),” he added.
In closing, crown prosecutor Sandra Cupina said it was unlikely that five separate women would offer a “sympathy” sex act to a total stranger, and asked the jury to reject Sampath’s (story) evidence.
“It’s implausible that they would touch his body in any way unless he forced them,” she said.
Defence barrister Peter Nolan conceded his client had behavioural issues.
“He obviously had issues that caused him to act in a way that you might find a bit odd or bizarre, but that doesn’t mean he is criminal,” Mr Nolan said.
At the sentencing hearing, the prosecution also told the court that Samaranayake had previously been convicted of assaulting a teenage girl in Victoria in 2010. In 2010, he had been working as a delivery driver when he lured the 15-year-old girl into his van, to commit the crime.
After the guilty verdict of the jury, sentencing Sampath Samaranayake to three years imprisonment, Judge Tony Moynihan said it would have been a terrifying experience for the victims. Sampath will be eligible for parole after serving 18 months in jail.
Under the Australian Migration laws, anyone convicted of a crime punishable with 12 months’ imprisonment or more, is liable to be deported to their country of origin upon their release. Therefore, Sampath is expected to be deported after release.