Sakaria Taufao faced Brisbane District Court accused of raping a passenger. Photo: Facebook.
Sakaria Taufao faced Brisbane District Court accused of raping a passenger. Photo: Facebook.

‘Cold, calculated’: Uber driver jailed for raping teen

An Uber driver who lured a teenager passenger into his car before raping her and keeping her driver's licence "as a trophy" has been jailed for seven years over the horrific sexual assault.

A Brisbane District Court jury found Sakaria Taufao, 50, deliberately turned off his ride-share app before raping the 18-year-old in the back seat of his BMW sedan off a dirt road in Ipswich in 2015.

It can now be revealed that Taufao had been accused of raping another young passenger in The Gap in 2017, but he was acquitted of all three rape charges after a trial in December.

After the guilty verdict was handed down late on Friday afternoon, Judge Michael Burnett sentenced Taufao to seven years' jail with no parole date for the "cold and calculated" attack.

The court was told Taufao convinced the young woman to let him drive her to Fortitude Valley after he saw her walking home from Club Metro at Ipswich around midnight on September 5, 2015.

Shortly into the trip however he turned off his Uber app and drove down an isolated dirt road at Redbank Plains and demanded the teenager "get in the back seat".

Sakaria Taufao faced Brisbane District Court accused of raping a passenger. Photo: Facebook.
Sakaria Taufao faced Brisbane District Court accused of raping a passenger. Photo: Facebook.

 

Prosecutor Michael Gawrych told the court Taufao then had "quick and rough" intercourse with her and ejaculated on the ground outside his vehicle.

The court was told he then sought to "hide her in plain sight" by driving her to Fortitude Valley and telling her to get out.

Two of the teenager's friends and her brother took the stand, telling the jury that she had confided in them at separate times about the alleged sexual assault.

But it was not until July 2017 - almost two years after she was raped - that his offending came to light when Queensland Police discovered the teenager's driver's licence in a console of the car.

Police were investigating the rape of a 23-year-old woman who alleged Taufao had sexually assaulted her three times down isolated streets in The Gap as he drove her home from Fortitude Valley on July 7.

During the search of the car police found the teenager's licence which Mr Gawrych suggested that Taufao had kept "as a trophy" of the rape.

Investigators contacted the teenager who made a criminal complaint and Taufao was arrested.

At his sentencing on Friday night, barrister Dominic Nguyen said the father-of-four, who was born in Samoa but was a New Zealand national, would be deported after his release from custody.

He urged Judge Burnett to give Taufao immediate parole arguing that he had been in custody since his arrest in July 2017.

Judge Burnett said Taufao had used "the cloak of security" attached to the Uber brand to prey on the vulnerable teenager.

"I do think It was predatory and you used and abused your role as an Uber driver to lure this drunk 18-year-old into your vehicle," Judge Burnett said.

"Ultimately you violated this complainant in the most despicable way."

A spokeswoman for Uber described the offending as "abhorrent" and said the company had removed Taufao's access to the Uber app immediately after becoming aware of the police report.

"While this trip was not taken on the Uber app, we were able to work closely with Queensland Police to assist in their investigation," she said.

 

TIMELINE

September 5, 2015: 18-year-old raped by Taufao after he offered to drive her from Ipswich to Fortitude Valley

July 6, 2017: 23-year-old alleges she was raped by Taufao three times as he drove her home to The Gap

July 6, 2017: 23-year-old woman and her father contact police

July 7, 2017: Police search Taufao's car and find teenager's driver's licence. They contact her and she makes a criminal complaint.

December 8, 2020: Taufao faces trial in Brisbane District Court and pleads not guilty to three counts of rape, denying he raped the 23-year-old

December 11, 2020: After a four-day trial the jury acquits Taufao on all three charges. He is remanded in custody on other rape charge.

January 18, 2020: Second trial begins after Taufao pleads not guilty to raping 18-year-old passenger

January 22, 2020: After a four-day trial the jury finds Taufao guilty of raping the teenager. He is sentenced to seven years' jail.

 

*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Cold, calculated': Uber driver jailed for raping teen


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