Monday, September 17, 2012

Rape accused: 'My life is in ruins'

As reported by Caroline Marcus in The Sunday Telegraph

A MAN wrongfully accused by police of a string of terrifying sex attacks in western Sydney says the ordeal has destroyed his life and left him suicidal.

Joey de Mesa, now 27, became known as the "buck-tooth rapist" after police charged him with the attacks on six teenage girls between April and June 2008.

When the DNA evidence cleared him, Mr de Mesa thought the nightmare bungle was behind him.

But four years on, he has turned to The Sunday Telegraph in sheer desperation, saying he cannot escape the slurs and lies about his character.

"It's so difficult for me to get a full-time job. I've tried but every time I get a job, I lose it," said fed-up Mr de Mesa, adding that he has also lost count of the number of job knockbacks.

Mr de Mesa fears employers have Googled his name and found out about his past and then let him go "without good reason".

"Who knows if they do background checks. A lot of people just question me and they start talking," Mr de Mesa said. "They approach me and say, 'I know you from somewhere, I've seen your face.' A lot of people do mention it.

"I love work. I've applied for work like wardsman in a hospital, for example."

He has held four warehouse jobs in western Sydney in the past four years, the most recent being as a labourer at a stationery company where he lasted just two weeks. "I was told there wasn't enough work."

His long-time partner Marcianne Mendiola, 23, said he was being discriminated against because it wasn't his performance that was lacking.

"He's always in and out of jobs," Ms Mendiola said.

Mr de Mesa says his life was torn apart when one of the victims incorrectly identified him after seeing him on a train and CCTV footage of him was released through the media.

He spent 48 hours in a cell before DNA evidence cleared him and he was released.

The real culprit, father-of-three Arvin Longabella, then 23, was arrested two weeks later and sentenced to 17 years behind bars for 15 offences against seven victims.

At the time of his arrest, Mr de Mesa was working at a fruit market in Edgecliff, but his employer let him go.

"Sometimes I think the easiest thing to do is to kill myself," he said.

"I've avoided everyone. I have no more friends. My old friends would mention it to me. They would say (you're): 'the buck-tooth rapist'."

His mother suffered a stroke after being interrogated by police in her house following his arrest, he said.

"My mum was sitting for 18 hours, just stiff like a log."

Mr de Mesa knows he's made mistakes - at the time of his arrest he was on bail for kicking a man during a late-night fight on June 29, for which he recently finished serving a two-year good behaviour bond.

But he wants a clean slate and says the first step is to expunge the sex attacks arrest from his criminal record.

A police spokeswoman said police "spoke with the man and his family immediately after his release and issued a personal apology" - which Mr de Mesa denied ever happened - "and consulted with them (Mr de Mesa and his family) in relation to a subsequent media release, which announced that all charges were being withdrawn."