A man accused of posing as an Uber driver and sexually assaulting five women he picked up in Brisbane’s nightclub precinct three years ago has been found guilty and jailed for at least 18 months.
The jury took less than three hours to find Sampath Sandaruwan Samaranayake, 44, assaulted five women in separate attacks, forcing them to touch him on the ride home in the early hours of September 2018..
He also touched, kissed and exposed himself to the women, with some trapped in the car.
Samaranayake denied the claims in the Brisbane District Court but was found guilty on Thursday of 18 counts, including sexual and indecent assault and deprivation of liberty.
The father of two took the stand on Wednesday, admitting Uber rejected his application because his 2007 Land Rover was considered too old.
The full-time chef 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 trawl the nightclub precinct looking for passengers waiting for Uber drivers and offered to take them home for a cash fee.
Samaranayake would discuss his weight loss and how conscious he remained about the 25 to 30 kilos of skin folds left on his body.
He claimed the women enjoyed chatting, and his alleged victims tried to touch him to comfort him.
In sentencing submissions, crown prosecutor Sandra Cupina said Samaranayake had previously been convicted of assaulting a teenage girl in Victoria.
His behaviour had since escalated, Ms Cupina said.
“He has deliberately prowled the Fortitude Valley area in the early hours of the mornings and late at night to target young women,” she said.
“He has deliberately exploited both the vulnerability and their humanity of young women in order to obtain sexual gratification.”
He said he had shown no remorse for his victims, who were left traumatised.
“He seems to blame the women and, in fact, he feels unfairly treated, so his prospect of rehabilitation is limited.”
In sentencing, Judge Tony Moynihan said it would have been a terrifying experience for the victims.
Samaranayake was sentenced to three years imprisonment and will be eligible to apply for parole after serving half his sentence.
He is expected to be deported after release.