‘I thought I was going to die’ — Moroccan migrant with 15 previous convictions found guilty of raping woman he met on carpooling app

By Thomas Brooke
8 Min Read

A migrant from Morocco stood trial in France on Monday on suspicion of raping a young woman returning to her parent’s home with whom he had arranged to carpool on the popular BlaBlaCar app.

The Corrèze Criminal Court heard the plight of a 23-year-old known as Julie, who told the court about how she had suffered at the hands of 30-year-old Redouane Er Rachdy, a Moroccan and French dual-national with a long rap sheet dating back to when he was a minor.

The incident occurred on Jan. 18, 2022, when the victim had arranged through the carpooling app to travel from Toulouse, where she was a business school student, to her parent’s home in Clermont-Ferrand — just over a four-hour drive.

The victim told the court how she was picked up by the defendant shortly after 3.30 p.m., around two hours later than had been agreed, and they set off north to her destination.

Although the app had listed multiple other passengers who were due to share the journey with them, the defendant turned up in the vehicle on his own, immediately making Julie feel uncomfortable and vulnerable.

Her fears grew shortly into the journey when Er Rachdy veered off the highway to make a detour through the Minimes district where he explained he needed to pick up a package. At the same time, the defendant was regularly fielding calls from someone who transpired to be his ex-partner, Alexia, demanding he return the vehicle to her apartment, as it was a rental in her name and she feared it would be reported stolen since it was overdue.

The situation turned sour still when Er Rachdy told the young woman that he needed to deliver the package to Limoges — a considerable 230-kilometer detour from her destination. After Julie protested, the defendant backed down and claimed he would leave it in a safe place halfway along the route and return for it later.

At approximately 7 p.m., the defendant turned off the highway again and drove around an hour down rural roads in the dark until they reached a disused stone barn in the small village of Vigeois. He deposited the package and sought to set off when he told Julie he had misplaced the keys to the vehicle.

After searching around for the keys, Julie located them under the trunk and hoped to get back on the road, but the defendant claimed to be suffering from an anxiety attack and couldn’t restart the journey.

The victim told the court how Er Rachdy demanded oral sex from her “to calm him down,” and when she refused he turned into a “demon,” confiscating her phone and grabbing her “by the neck with both hands.”

“He strangled me until I could no longer breathe,” the court heard as the victim also accused the defendant of punching her on the arm and the back of the head.

“He told me that he had a knife, that he was going to slit my throat, and that he had nothing to lose,” Julie recalled. “We were in the middle of nowhere and it was pitch black. I didn’t even know if there were any houses around. I told myself that he was going to catch up with me,” she added, explaining she was too frightened to run.

She said she felt compelled to perform oral sex on her assailant to stay alive. “For me, fellatio was to survive, I felt like I had no choice. I said to myself: ‘I don’t know what he’s capable of.’ I thought I was going to die here.”

Afterward, Julie explained how she felt “paralyzed” and numb but the defendant “acted as if nothing had happened” and set off on their journey. Before too long, the victim was dumped at a motorway rest area in the middle of the night and taunted her, saying, “What are you going to do now? Call the cops?”

In considerable distress, the victim broke down in tears and called her mother before knocking on residential doors for help.

An elderly woman who assisted her and called the police on her behalf took to the stand in court and corroborated Julie’s story.

Upon their arrival, the authorities noted the red marks on the victim’s throat and wrists in line with her testimony, and Er Rachdy’s DNA was found on her body.

During cross-examination, the defendant claimed that the sexual act was consensual and that Julie had been hugging him and kissing him at the barn and offered him masturbation “but her hands were cold so she gave me oral sex.”

He accounted for the marks on Julie’s body by claiming they had been in a car accident. He accused the victim of fabricating her story, perhaps due to regret, and suggested that “she should be the one who goes to prison.”

However, Er Rachdy’s ex-girlfriend also testified in court, accusing him of pulling her hair and grabbing her throat in previous instances when she refused to perform oral sex on him, another allegation the defendant denied.

In another twist for which little explanation was offered, the vehicle used in the attack was seen on CCTV arriving at a friend’s house of the defendant later that evening. Six minutes after it arrived, a fire broke out and the car was destroyed.

The court heard how the Moroccan national had arrived in France at the age of 6 under family reunification laws following the migration of his father. After leaving school at 16, he became involved in drugs and racked up 15 separate convictions before his arrest for rape.

His previous offenses included aggravated theft and violence, driving without a license, refusal to comply, hit-and-run, drug consumption, arson, fraud, and breach of trust.

The carpool company BlaBlaCar was questioned at the time of the arrest on why a user with such an extensive criminal record was allowed to use the app, to which it replied that criminal background checks were not carried out upon users registering on their site.

On Tuesday, five magistrates found Er Rachdy guilty of rape and sentenced him to eight years in prison. His lawyer announced his intention to appeal the decision.

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