Molested girl didn't alert crew: Airline

Molested girl didn't alert crew: Airline

A 13-year-old Singaporean who flew alone to Dubai last November and fell victim to a groper aboard the flight did not alert the cabin crew, said Sri Lankan Airlines.

Neither did her guardian request assistance when the flight was booked, said a Colombo-based spokesman in an e-mail response to The Straits Times clarifying the incident.

"She had been checked in as an adult passenger and she had not requested nor indicated a requirement for assistance at the time of check-in at the airport," said the spokesman.

A Dubai court heard last month that the girl was repeatedly molested by Ashok Antoine, 45, a Sri Lankan national seated next to her.

The incident occurred while she was asleep, after the plane entered UAE airspace, according to UAE daily Gulf News. According to the report, she told police she woke up when he first touched her and she told him to stop but he molested her again after she went to sleep.

" I was scared and didn't know what to do because the lights were off... I pushed his hand away. I fell asleep again and he touched me a third time," she was quoted as saying in the report.

When the plane landed at Dubai International Airport, a security guard spotted her in tears and she told him what happened. Her father, a Singaporean engineer working in Dubai, was waiting for her in the arrival hall.

Antoine admitted in court to molesting the girl and was also found to possess about 2g of marijuana when he was detained. He was said to have pleaded for leniency before the presiding judge. Prosecutors are seeking a minimum three-year jail term. The Dubai First Instance Court ordered his case to be brought up next week for sentencing.

It is understood that the teen, who is a student in Dubai, has travelled alone previously and is familiar with the route. Airlines generally have a practice of protecting unaccompanied minors during flights, when notified.

"Sri Lankan Airlines has a clear policy on treating unaccompanied minors and young passengers. Accordingly, the service is offered upon request at the time of placing a booking," said the spokesman.

He added that if the teen had approached any of the cabin crew members during the flight and "informed them of the alleged interference, we would have taken preventive measures during the flight and necessary action with the local police".

This article was first published on March 4, 2015.
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