Woman left with 'lasting fear'

Harshana Thammahetti Mudalige.
Harshana Thammahetti Mudalige.
A Sri Lankan man who stalked several women during a 24-hour drug-induced psychosis has left one of his victims with ''a lasting fear''.

Harshana Rajiv Kumara Peiris Thammahetti Mudalige (33) appeared in the Dunedin District Court this week and was jailed for a year after admitting charges of indecent assault, doing an indecent act, intimidation, possessing cannabis and two of unlawfully being in an enclosed yard.

He had come to New Zealand six years ago ''to make a better life'' for himself, his counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said, and he had no previous convictions.

But at the start of August, Thammahetti Mudalige lost his job after failing a drug test and then embarked on a four-day cannabis binge.

Judge Michael Turner said that resulted in a psychosis.

''At the time you believed [your offending] was right, thought you were the son of God, that masturbation was a form of prayer and the victims were there for you,'' he said.

Thammahetti Mudalige said he could not recall any of the events but one victim told the Otago Daily Times the trauma had been etched into her memory.

The law student was walking down London St on August 6 when he began following her.

As she turned up Constitution St, Thammahetti Mudalige upped his pace to gain ground on her.

The woman feared she was being followed but told herself she was being paranoid.

When she got into her car and saw the defendant standing at the bonnet, she tried to leave.

The engine would not start.

''I was shaking,'' she said.

Thammahetti Mudalige approached her door and asked for directions.

She opened it: ''I was just being kind,'' she said.

''He looked at me greedily, grabbed my boob and launched himself on me.''

The man eventually fled after she screamed for help.

Less than six hours earlier at Mt Cargill lookout, Thammahetti Mudalige had approached another broken-down car in which two women sat.

He masturbated in front of the victims before driving away.

Next, the defendant went to St Clair where he followed a woman up Norfolk St, all the way up her drive until she locked herself in the house.

He then drove to Musselburgh, where he parked his car and pursued another woman, breaking into a run when she sprinted away from him.

Outside her home, Thammahetti Mudalige asked if she lived alone before she drove away.

The next day, he returned to Norfolk St, parked in front of the home of the previous victim and hid in some bushes.

While she was putting out rubbish, the defendant confronted her.

He left the scene when she yelled out to neighbours and the defendant was stopped by police that evening.

The victim of the indecent assault said she was shaken by the incident.

''There's this lasting fear,'' she said.

''I used to feel like Dunedin was safe all the time, like I lived in this community full of friends; it's a student town. And then this man came and really stripped me of that.''

She missed exams in the aftermath of the attack and had to fight for special consideration.

''It's had a lasting emotional impact but more than that it's impacted this great life I was building,'' she said.

''I'm really angry.''

The victim was further distressed to hear Thammahetti Mudalige would not be deported on completion of his sentence.

Ms Saunderson-Warner said he was a permanent resident and had been here more than five years, which meant he was not liable to be automatically returned to Sri Lanka.

Thammahetti Mudalige was jailed by Judge Turner for one year. The ODT understands he will soon be released from prison because of time spent in custody on remand.