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Closed court to continue as third Malka Leifer accuser gives evidence

The hearing that will determine whether Malka Leifer stands trial on sex abuse charges will continue in a closed court next Monday when a third accuser begins her evidence against the former school principal.

The committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court was originally intended to run for five days. However, it took lawyers a combined four days this week to question two of the three sisters who allege they were abused by Ms Leifer when they were students between 2004 and 2008.

A court sketch of Malka Leifer this week.Credit:Paul Tyquin

The first woman gave her evidence over Monday and Tuesday, and the second accuser was questioned over three days before finishing her evidence on Friday. Both were questioned in a closed court, a standard practice in Victoria for complainants in sex assault cases.

The third complainant will begin her evidence on Monday morning. The court could open to media and other parties on Monday afternoon for a witness based in Israel.

Ms Leifer, the former principal of the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick, faces 74 charges comprising 11 of rape, 47 of indecent assault, three of sexual penetration of a child and 13 of committing an indecent act with a child.

The 55-year-old maintains she is innocent and will be asked to formally enter a plea at the end of the hearing. She appeared via a video link from custody this week.

Former principal Ms Leifer is accused of abusing three of her then students between 2004 and 2008.

The complainants – sisters Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer – have appeared via video links when giving evidence, with a support person in the same room. They have been granted a court order that allows them to publicly identify themselves.

The only witness who appeared in open court this week was Mario Toledo, a former cleaner at the school, who on Thursday recalled seeing Ms Leifer working some Sundays when the school was closed, and that she sometimes had as many as four girls with her and sometimes one.

But Mr Toledo said he never paid attention to any conversations between them.

Another six witnesses are to follow the third complainant, including a psychologist, Adass teachers and a police investigator. Magistrate Johanna Metcalf will then decide if there is sufficient evidence to commit Ms Leifer to stand trial in a higher court.

Charge sheets allege Ms Leifer committed offences in Elsternwick, Elwood, Frankston and Emerald and in the towns of Blampied and Rawson.

She left Australia for Israel in 2008 when allegations against her emerged. She was charged in 2012 and extradition hearings began in 2014, but she was not extradited to Australia until the start of this year.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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