"He has deliberately prowled the Fortitude Valley area"
Sampath Sandaruwan Samaranayake, aged 44, of Brisbane, Australia, was jailed for at least 18 months after he posed as an Uber driver and sexually assaulted five women.
Brisbane District Court heard he lured women into his car in the early hours of September 2018.
Samaranayake assaulted the five women in separate attacks, forcing them to touch him on the drive home.
He also touched, kissed and exposed himself to the women, with some trapped in his car.
Samaranayake denied the allegations, saying it was impossible to force women to touch his genitals because he needed both hands to hold his stomach out of the way.
In court on March 10, 2021, Samaranayake admitted Uber rejected his application because his 2007 Land Rover was considered too old.
The father-of-two said he was under financial pressure and needed a second job to pay to have skin folds removed when he started his own rideshare scheme.
He would prowl Brisbane’s nightclub precinct, targeting passengers waiting for cabs and offered to take them home for a cash fee.
He would discuss his weight loss and how conscious he remained about the 25 to 30 kilos of skin folds left on his body.
Samaranayake claimed the women enjoyed chatting and his alleged victims tried to touch him to comfort him.
Sandra Cupina, prosecuting, said Samaranayake was previously convicted of assaulting a teenage girl in Victoria.
He had been working as a delivery driver in 2010 where he lured a 15-year-old girl into his van.
Samaranayake told her he had a “small penis” and made the girl touch him while he masturbated.
Ms Cupina said his behaviour had since escalated.
She said: “He has deliberately prowled the Fortitude Valley area in the early hours of the mornings and late at night to target young women.
“He has deliberately exploited both the vulnerability and their humanity of young women in order to obtain sexual gratification.”
She went to say that the fake Uber driver had shown no remorse for his traumatised victims.
“He seems to blame the women and, in fact, he feels unfairly treated, so his prospect of rehabilitation is limited.”
Samaranayake was found guilty of 18 counts, including sexual and indecent assault and deprivation of liberty.
Judge Tony Moynihan said it would have been a terrifying experience for the victims.
He acknowledged the bravery of victim Jessica Small, who gave permission to be identified.
Outside the court, she said:
“I am just really relieved to have all this over and done with. It’s finally over.
“It has definitely taught me to think a little before I blindly trust strangers.”
“You would like to think everyone has best intentions but it is worth being safe – that’s what I took away from this.”
Ms Small met the four other victims at the start of the trial and said there was some comfort knowing she was not alone.
She added: “It was a little bit of a relief to know I’m not the only one to experience this.
“It was kind of nice to have other women backing me up and telling the same story.”
Samaranayake was sentenced to three years in prison. He will be eligible to apply for parole after serving half his sentence.
The Daily Mail reported that after his release, he is expected to be deported to Sri Lanka.