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Sexual assault nurse examiner testifies at former Halifax cab driver's trial

Former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi is seen during a break in his trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court Thursday February 20, 2020.  Today was the first day of his sexual assault trial for an alleged incident in December 2012.
Former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi is seen during a break in his trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court Feb. 20, 2020. Thursday was Day 6 of Al-Rawi's sexual assault trial in relation to an incident on Dec. 15, 2012. - Tim Krochak
HALIFAX, N.S. —

The cervix of a woman who says she was raped by a Halifax taxi driver was swollen and chafed, a sexual assault nurse examiner testified Thursday.

But Marilyn Grant, one of two SANEs who did the exam, said there are multiple reasons why a cervix may be swollen, such as aggressive penetration, using a tampon, a fungal infection or sensitivity to a latex condom. 

Grant said the complainant was calm when she arrived at the hospital in Pictou County at about 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2012. The complainant told Grant a man in his 30s of Middle Eastern descent had raped her earlier that day. 

Bassam Al-Rawi is facing a charge of sexual assault after a woman claimed he picked her up when she was intoxicated in downtown Halifax, took her back to his apartment and raped her as she pretended to be asleep on Dec. 15, 2012. 

The complainant chose to undergo a head-to-toe exam by Grant and another SANE and have the forensic evidence frozen. 

Grant said the nurses didn’t observe any new bruises, cuts or marks on the complainant’s body during a body exam. 

When put under an ultraviolet light, the back of the complainant’s left calf, ankle and underwear lit up showing areas that had come into contact with fluids such as semen, saliva or urine, but no “semen-like material” was found in her pubic hair. 

Grant said the nurses swabbed the areas, as well as the complainant’s mouth and vagina. 

A rectal swab wasn’t done because the complainant said she had stopped the man from penetrating her anus and there was no visual trauma, Grant said. 

A pregnancy test done from the complainant’s urine sample came back negative. 

From there, Grant gave the complainant plan B, preventative medications for chlamydia and gonorrhea and Gravol for possible nausea caused by the medication. 

The swabs, woman's underwear and other forensic evidence collected during the exam was placed into a box, sealed with evidence tape and signed with Grant’s and the other nurse’s signature. It was then taken to a locked freezer in the hospital, solely for sexual assault forensic kits. 

Grant noted the complainant's left pantleg also lit up under the UV light, so swabs were taken, but the underwear was the only piece of clothing admitted to the kit. 

"Victims have choices throughout the exam,” Grant said, adding the person often keeps their clothes because they know they won't get them back. 

When going over photos of the evidence from the forensic kit, Grant acknowledged the labels on some of the containers, such as the urine sample, had deteriorated and were illegible. 

Since the day of the exam, Grant said she hasn’t touched the kit or spoken with the complainant. 

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Ian Hutchison pointed out one of the forensic evidence documents had been altered.  

Grant said the documents not placed in the forensic evidence kits are kept by the SANE co-ordinator in Antigonish, but she doesn’t know who altered it. 

When asked about the results of the exam, Grant said SANEs take swabs, some fluids placed on slides, and a urine sample, but aren’t told the results of the evidence collected. 

Crown attorney Carla Ball is expected to call two more SANEs, including the other nurse who did the complainant’s exam, and the toxicologist to the stand on Friday. 

The judge-alone trial, which began Feb. 20 before Justice Gerald Moir, is expected to sit for 11 days in total. 
 

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