Australia

'I just froze': John Jarratt trial begins

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The actor's trial began on Monday after he pleaded not guilty to one count of raping a woman in 1976.

A young John Jarratt forced himself on a sleeping housemate, held her down and whispered in her ear as he raped her in their Sydney share house, the woman has told a jury.

The actor, who says the one-off sexual encounter he had with the woman was consensual, has pleaded not guilty to raping her in the home in the mid-1970s.

John Jarratt
The actor has pleaded not guilty to the charge of raping a housemate in 1976.
AAP

The complainant told the NSW District Court on Monday she was awoken about 3am one night to the fully clothed man ripping the covers off her bed in the home she shared with Jarratt, his wife Rosa Miano and another housemate.

"John Jarratt tore my underwear off ... just ripped them off and threw them on the floor," she said.

"I believe I said 'What are you doing?' and then I shut up because I was concerned about Rosa hearing me."

The complainant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said Jarratt unzipped his fly, pinned her down and covered her mouth with his hand before raping the then-teenager over a few minutes.

"He was whispering 'You're just like a blonde Rosa'. He said that about three or four times," she said.

"I just froze. I could not believe that it was happening."

Asked if she'd said or done anything to indicate consent, she said: "Not at all."

The woman didn't say anything to anyone at the time in part to protect Ms Miano.

She continued living in the house because she didn't know what else to do and didn't want to move out, the alleged victim told the court.

"I just pretended basically that nothing had happened."

But, the woman testified, years later she told some people Jarratt had raped her. She told Ms Miano when the hairdresser separated from the actor in the 1980s.

Crown prosecutor John Bowers foreshadowed in his opening address that Ms Miano, who remarried Jarratt in 2016, was expected to tell the court the complainant didn't mention rape but instead said it was "a one-night stand".

Ms Miano is also expected to say her husband had already confided he and the former housemate "willingly participated" in sex when the housemate called him into her bedroom.

John Jarratt
John Jarratt (centre) leaves the Downing Centre Local Court on Monday.

Jarratt was charged after the complainant reported the matter to police in late 2017.

During the short trial, the jury is expected to be shown a taped statement of Jarratt stating he had consensual sex with his housemate on the night he was confirmed as the lead actor for the film Summer City.

The court was told Jarratt in his statement said he arrived home, went to the bathroom and then heard the housemate whisper loudly for him to come to her room, where they became intimate.

In the statement, Jarratt says the complainant contacted him years later when he was filming a movie in the town in which she was living and he invited her to some events where she became a regular.

Jarratt told police there was no hostility between the two and "indeed there was no reason for any hostility," the court was told.

Defence barrister Greg James said the complainant was asserting a rape "of a most forceful kind".

To return a guilty verdict, the jury had to be satisfied the sexual encounter was non-consensual and there was "no other rational conclusion ... notwithstanding all the time that has passed and all the silence", Mr James said.

He argued the woman's account to others suggested there was consensual intercourse rather than rape.

The trial continues.

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