Former principal Malka Leifer to stand trial on 70 sex abuse charges

Caroline SchelleNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Former ultra-Orthodox Jewish principal Malka Leifer will stand trial more than a decade after allegations of sexual abuse against three students first emerged.

But the 55-year-old year old former head of the Adass Israel School in Melbourne will face fewer charges following a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Four counts of indecent assault between February and March 2008 were dismissed by magistrate Johanna Metcalf on Thursday.

“It is quite clear on the evidence that those incidents allegedly occurred in Israel and not in Melbourne,” prosecutor Nanette Rogers told the court.

The former school principal will face 70 charges, including 11 of rape, in relation to three sisters between 2004 and 2008.

Four charges of indecent assault between February and March 2008 were dismissed by magistrate Johanna Metcalf on Thursday. David Crosling
Camera IconFour charges of indecent assault between February and March 2008 were dismissed by magistrate Johanna Metcalf on Thursday. David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

Mrs Leifer pleaded not guilty after the magistrate found there was enough evidence for a jury to convict.

The mother-of-eight has always maintained her innocence.

The alleged victims – Dassi Erlich, Elly Sapper and Nicole Meyer –gave evidence in closed court during a hearing which spanned three weeks.

They previously sought a court order so they could be named.

On the last day of the hearing Dassi Erlich’s former husband Joshua Erlich gave evidence about a phone call his ex wife had with her sister after confiding to a counsellor in Israel about 2008.

“I distinctly remember the way she was speaking was a rather panicked tone,” Mr Erlich told the court.

He said the former social worker and counsellor Chana Rabinowitz was “very concerned” about what his wife told her about her relationship with the former principal.

“Dassi was very worried about how it had been taken,” he said.

“She was concerned about what happened next and was not sure why it was being taken in a such a serious way”, Mr Erlich told the court.

Mrs Rabinowitz had worked in Melbourne and had dealt with students from the Adass Israel school, the court was told earlier.

Joshua Erlich also told the court his former wife considered Mrs Leifer a supportive figure who gave the sisters “respite” from their controlling mother.

The court heard Dassi Erlich was subjected to serious abuse at the hands of her mother including regular beatings and being cut with a knife.

When asked if he was aware the former principal had been “affectionate” with his then-wife including hugs and rubbing thighs, Mr Erlich told the court he wasn’t aware of the details.

“I didn’t find it particularly concerning - if it was under the clothes I would have been concerned about that.”

Another witness, Esther Spigelman, who knew Mrs Leifer said the accusations were a “shock” to everyone at the school and in the community.

She was a former department head at the school and was present at the meeting in 2008 when Mrs Leifer was told her role had been terminated.

“We didn’t go into details of things but she definitely said I did nothing wrong,” Mrs Spigelman said on Thursday.

“And pretty much, she felt very (it was) unfair with what was happening.”

During the hearings Mrs Leifer kept her face turned away from the camera unless she was asked a direct question.

She mostly kept her mouth covered as witnesses gave their evidence at the remote hearing.

The former principal left Australia for Israel in 2008 when the allegations emerged and was extradited back at the start of this year.

She will next appear at the County Court of Victoria in October for a directions hearing.

Originally published as Former principal Malka Leifer to stand trial on 70 sex abuse charges

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