Rape Case Against Pilot Collapses

A pilot on trial for rape walked free today after the case against him collapsed over concerns about the police inquiry. Fadi Sbano, 38, was accused of conning a woman into regular sex by convincing her she was undergoing an elaborate treatment for herpes.

The Syrian-born pilot, of Edgware, London, was also accused of making his alleged victim pay £5,500 for an expensive cream he allegedly administered through anal sex.

The Gatwick-based pilot, who flew jets for Britannia Airways, insisted throughout the trial at Swansea Crown Court that she had “concocted” the whole story.

Earlier this year he was cleared of six counts of anal rape on a different woman in a separate trial at the same court.

Today Judge Christopher Morton discharged the jury after deciding that information disclosed only during the trial undermined the complainant’s credibility.

Sbano had denied nine counts of rape by deception and 11 counts of obtaining money by deception, between January and November 2001.

During the trial the woman, from Pembrokeshire, west Wales, claimed she was initially duped into having conventional sex with him.

The jury at Swansea Crown Court heard allegations that he claimed he was dying of cancer and only sex would alleviate his pain.

Contributing to the judge’s decision today were questions raised about the “inappropriate familiarity” between the complainant and the Dyfed Powys Police investigating officer.

Yesterday it emerged the officer had been removed from the case after the woman, 36, a former private school teacher, had subsequently complained about him.

A brief note regarding his removal, passed to the defence during legal submissions in the absence of the jury, claimed he was unable to dedicate the time necessary to the case.

Vital medical records which contradicted the complainant’s testimony in court were also only passed to the defence during cross-examination.

Police inquiry records seen by the defence for the first time only last week demonstrated her closeness to the investigating officer.

In one case a note she had written to him about possible investigations he should make began with a smiley face drawing.

It was also noted that his interviews with her and replies to her questions were in unusually familiar language for a police inquiry.

Judge Morton said that with the trial now into its second week and cross examination of the complainant still under way, it was unknown whether more relevant facts would emerge.

“Quite simply, the prejudice is illustrated by the fact that cross examination cannot be completed until such time as investigations are completed,” he said.

“This is a case where the lack of disclosure needs further inquiry and this position has only become apparent during the trial itself.”

He added: “There are indications that insufficient distance has been kept between the officer and the complainant.

“Lack of distance and consequent lack of objectivity also in itself generally raises disclosure problems.

“I cannot and do not need to understand the reasons for that situation arising, and in my opinion it has arisen.”

“In my judgment at this stage, adjourning the trial or aborting the trial for a retrial would not remove the prejudice to the defendant.

“I am satisfied on the particular facts of this case that I have underlined that the defendant cannot now receive a fair trial, whether that is by adjournment of the present trial or by a new trial.

“The prosecution should be stayed and the jury discharged.”

He added: “I make it quite clear that the conduct of the counsel or the conduct of the case solicitors has not been adversely criticised by the defence or the court.

“Their role in this case has not been questioned.”

Sbano had previously been on the run for a year after absconding from bail, pending trial, and taking refuge in Turkey.

He surrendered to police in October last year and had spent 31 weeks in custody until his release today.

The judge decided to impose no penalty for absconding from bail due to the time he had already spent in custody.

Neither Sbano nor any of his family would comment after the case.