Mother of alleged Malka Leifer victims declined to give statement to police, trial hears

The mother of three sisters who have accused ultra-Orthodox former school principal Malka Leifer of abusing them declined to give a statement to the detective investigating the case, a jury has heard.

Detective Sergeant Danielle Newton, the lead investigator in the case against Leifer, told a jury that when she contacted the complainants’ mother, Smadar Sapper, by phone in February 2021, she declined to give a statement.

Malka Leifer has pleaded not guilty to child abuse charges.

Newton said she provided Sapper with a “watered down” description of the allegations made by her daughters, Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper, but that Smadar Sapper declined to provide a statement to the detective.

“You say you spoke with Mrs Sapper, the mother of the three complainants?” Leifer’s barrister, Ian Hill, KC, asked Newton in the County Court on Monday.

That’s correct,” she responded.

Newton agreed with Hill’s proposition that she had not contacted the mother to try to obtain a statement since the 2021 phone call. The detective said she told the mother at the time that if she changed her mind about making a statement she should contact investigators.

“Have you followed her up at all?” Hill asked.

“No,” Newton told the jury, “I did explain to her if she changes her mind to give me a call, and I left my details, but have not heard from her.”

Leifer has pleaded not guilty to 29 charges, including rape. She is standing trial on allegations that between 2003 and 2007, she abused three students who attended the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick. She has consistently maintained her innocence.

The trial heard Newton also contacted multiple people in the Adass community to provide evidence, including potential witnesses in the United States and Israel, but they also declined to provide statements to police.

Newton told the court police were unable to obtain phone records from the time.

Previously, prosecutor Justin Lewis told the jury that the Adass community is insular and private.

Newton was the prosecution’s last witness. On Monday morning, Lewis officially rested the prosecution’s case against Leifer.

The 29 charges Leifer faces comprise 10 of rape, 10 of indecent assault, three of sexual penetration of a 16-year-old or 17-year-old child, five of an indecent act with a 16-year-old or 17-year-old child, and one of rape by compelled sexual penetration.

The complainants – sisters Meyer, Erlich and Elly Sapper – have provided permission to The Age to be identified.

The trial, in front of Judge Mark Gamble, continues.

If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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