First of three accusers gives evidence against Malka Leifer

The first of the three women who allege they were sexually abused as children by Malka Leifer is giving evidence in a court hearing that will determine whether the former school principal will stand trial.

Ms Leifer, the former principal of the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick, is accused of sexually abusing three of her then students from 2004 to 2008 and is this week before Melbourne Magistrates Court for a hearing that will determine whether there is enough evidence for her to stand trial in a higher court.

Former principal Malka Leifer is accused of abusing three of her then students.

The 55-year-old, who faces 74 charges including 11 of rape, maintains she is innocent and will be asked to formally enter a plea at the end of the committal hearing.

On Monday, Ms Leifer watched the hearing via a video link from custody but kept her head leaning downward and a hand over her face. She wore a blue top and white head covering. She said, “Yes, yes” when asked if she could hear the proceedings, but only when a guard asked her to respond to magistrate Johanna Metcalf.

The first of the three complainants began giving evidence on Monday morning in a closed court, a standard practice for sex assault cases in Victoria. The three complainants – sisters Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer – will give evidence via video links with a support person in the same room as them.

The three women have been granted a court order which allows them to publicly identify themselves.

A sketch of Malka Leifer from a court hearing earlier this year.Credit:Mollie McPherson

The hearing is set to run all week and into next and Ms Leifer’s barrister, Ian Hill, QC, said he was “mildly confident” the hearing would finish next Monday.

But Ms Leifer and all Jewish witnesses have been excused from watching the hearing on Thursday because of the Yom Kippur holy day. Mr Hill said his client was keen to mark the day and content for her legal team to continue without her watching the hearing on Thursday.

Ms Leifer faces 74 charges comprising 11 counts of rape, 47 of indecent assault, three of sexual penetration of a child and 13 of committing an indecent act with a child.

Charge sheets allege Ms Leifer committed offences in Elsternwick, Elwood, Frankston and Emerald and the regional towns of Blampied and Rawson.

She left Australia for Israel in 2008 when allegations against her emerged. She was charged in 2012 and extradition hearings began in 2014, but she was not extradited to Australia until the start of this year.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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