Five months after he was contacted by the Goa Police, Hollywood actor Robert De Niro has confirmed the role and presence of the Tehelka journalist who has accused the magazine’s founder editor of rape at Think Fest, the magazine’s annual media event in November 2013.
An email response routed through the office of the actor’s attorneys Harvey & Hackett, New York, to the police’s detailed questionnaire has confirmed that the woman journalist was De Niro’s liaison at the event. She was given the responsibility of chaperoning De Niro and his daughter Drena on all three days of the event at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Goa.
De Niro’s response will form a part of the supplementary chargesheet, sources told The Indian Express. On March 6, 2014, investigators had moved an application at the fast track court in Panaji under section 173(8) of the CrPC, seeking time to include the response of a “witness outside the country” in the supplementary chargesheet.
According to prosecution sources, De Niro’s response is pertinent to establish the role of the complainant at the venue, and to establish her presence, and that of the accused, at the scene of the alleged crime. De Niro has also responded to specific queries on his itinerary and movements during his stay in Goa, the sources said.
Tejpal faces charges under sections 376(2)(f) [rape by a person in a position of control or dominance over a woman] of the IPC, and 376(2)(k) [rape by a relative or guardian or a person in a position of trust or authority, and rape by a person in a fiduciary position] of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act.
De Niro’s response, the sources said, was significant in the wake of additional charges that have been pressed against Tejpal, where it is essential to prove the victim’s circumstances at the time of the alleged crime.
“Both the rape allegations are from events that happened inside the lift in Block 7, where on both the occasions, the accused had asked the victim to accompany him to the actor’s room,” an official said.
In its chargesheet filed on February 17, the Goa Police stated that the complainant had been introduced to the actor and his daughter by Tejpal on November 7. They were escorted to their respective rooms, numbers 7207 and 7210 in Block 7 on the second floor.
The editor and the complainant then walked out of Block 7 and reached the ground floor, the chargesheet says. Tejpal then allegedly asked the journalist to return to the actor’s room to wake him up. He is alleged to have raped the woman inside the lift on their way to the second floor to De Niro’s room.
The complainant has alleged that on November 8, she was asked by Tejpal to accompany him to pick something up from the actor’s room. She has alleged she was sexually assaulted a second time in the lift while on their way.
De Niro had earlier responded through his publicist Stan Rosenfield that he “was not aware of this incident until he returned to New York”.