'Why would I make it up?': Defence accuses alleged Skip the Dishes sex assault victim of fabricating story

'Why would I make it up?'

“I didn't want to be here. I just wanted it reported so it doesn't continue to happen to other people.”

It appeared to be a hellish morning in court for the Kelowna woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a delivery driver back in May 2021.

Hamid Al Dergham is facing a jury trial this week for an alleged sexual assault on the evening of May 3, 2021, when he delivered a Skip the Dishes order to a woman in downtown Kelowna.

During her testimony Thursday, the woman, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, said Al Dergham grabbed at her crotch, tried to kiss her on the face and neck, and grabbed her right breast.

He then sent her messages that evening and the following morning through WhatsApp, asking if she could send him photos and if he could come see her.

She replied “I ordered food, not to be sexually assaulted,” to which he responded: “I'm sorry, it didn't happen anymore.”

During her cross-examination Friday morning, defence lawyer Michael Patterson accused the woman of lying, repeatedly asserting: “You're making this story up!”

The woman emphatically responded “no” over and over again. She appeared upset during the questioning, holding her head in her hands at some points.

“You had three drinks, you were giggling with him, you took his phone, you scrolled through it, you put your telephone number in it, didn't you?” Patterson said.

“No,” she replied again.

Patterson also accused the woman of “flirting” with Al Dergham, which she denied.

“I don't think so, but you're telling me that if I was 'flirting' with him, then that was an invitation to touch me?” she said.

Patterson replied “absolutely not,” but said the “inconsistencies” in her story suggests she is “making up this fantasy story.”

“This is my fantasy?” she replied incredulously. “Why would I make that up? I'm not even the one specifically placing charges, I didn't want to be here. I just wanted it reported so it doesn't continue to happen to other people.”

Patterson did not have a theory as to why the woman would have fabricated the allegations.

She said she assumed Al Dergham got her phone number through the Skip the Dishes app, as drivers some times reach out if they're having issues finding a location.

Patterson continued to raise his voice as he accused the woman of lying. At one point, Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick warned Patterson to let the woman finish her answers before he cut her off.

One of the apparent “gotcha” moments of Patterson's cross-examination came when he pointed out that in the screenshots of the WhatsApp conversation between Al Dergham and the woman, there was no warning at the top of the thread that read: “This sender is not in your contacts. Block. Report. Add to contacts.”

“The reason why you did not get that warning or that indication from WhatsApp is because Mr. Al Dergham's number was already in your phone in your contacts?” Patterson said, reiterating his theory that she had put her number in Al Dergham's phone while flirting with him.

“No,” the woman replied. “I don't know how WhatsApp works but I'm telling you that I didn't already have his number in my phone.”

A review of this author's WhatsApp application shows no such warning message on previous message threads with numbers that are not in the phone's contact.

Patterson said Al Dergham is a Syrian refugee and English is not his first language. He's using the services of an Arabic translator during the trial. Patterson claimed Al Dergham wouldn't have been able to communicate with the woman on the day of the alleged assault as she claims, due to the language barrier.

It's not clear how long Al Dergham has lived in Canada, or how a conviction may impact his immigration status in Canada.

The woman's testimony wrapped up Friday morning. Her friend, who spoke to her on the phone after the alleged assault occurred, testified next. Two RCMP officers are also expected to testify into early next week.

Skip the Dishes has not responded to Castanet's request Thursday about Al Dergham's current status with the company.

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