A man who police believe was responsible for a violent sexual assault on a woman in the capital city earlier this week will stay behind bars for now.
Sofyan Boalag — who reportedly is originally from Algeria but lives in St. John’s — appeared in provincial court Tuesday.
The 33-year-old was dressed in a prison-issued jumpsuit as he was led into Courtroom No. 7, hanging his head to avoid reporters’ cameras.
He sat quietly in the courtroom as lawyers discussed the case.
Duty counsel Jane Fitzpatrick told Judge Greg Brown that Boalag would undergo a psychiatric assessment over the lunch hour at the Waterford Hospital.
When he returned to court in the afternoon, Boalag was told doctors deemed him to be mentally fit to stand trial.
Prosecutor Will-iam Cadigan told the judge the Crown was opposed to releasing Boalag from jail.
Lawyers agreed to have Boalag return to court today.
However, Fitzpatrick indicated the file containing evidence in Boalag’s case was large and she would likely need more time to review it.
She said it’s possible a bail hearing could be held next time, but admitted it was unlikely. She said his next appearance is expected to be for a status update.
Boalag faces nine charges — six in connection with a violent sexual assault and robbery against a woman on Sunday.
He’s charged with sexual assault with a weapon (a knife), sexual assault causing bodily harm, robbery and attempting to choke, strangle or suffocate the woman.
The woman was leaving a nightclub when she encountered a man and walked with him away from downtown St. John’s towards the centre city area before being sexually assaulted.
Police said the assault took place between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.
The suspect was described as tall and 30-40 years of age, with a slim build and dark complexion — Boalag matched the description.
At the time, police had warned women walking alone at night in the downtown and centre city areas to take precautions, as they may be at increased risk
of being sexually assaulted.
Plain-clothed police officers reportedly arrested Boalag Monday at the Village mall parking lot.
He was said to have resisted and struggled with officers. Boalag had to be taken to hospital, but was released shortly afterwards.
He was charged with resisting arrest, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a prohibited weapon and possessing sto-len property that belonged to someone other than the woman.
While Boalag — who has no criminal record from this province — has been charged in connection with one sexual assault, earlier this week the RNC said it was considering the possibility one man may be linked to several similar incidents.
Officers are looking into the possibility that a Dec. 1 assault on Bonaventure Avenue is linked to Sunday’s incident and another recent one in the same general area.
“The investigation into four other complaints is continuing, and there is a lot of work left to be done in those cases,” Const. Steven Curnew told reporters during an RNC news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“Our officers are working very diligently to come to a conclusion and lay further charges as the investigation continues.
“We’re going to let the evidence that we have right now unfold and see where it takes us.”
Curnew said police are appreciative of the women who had the courage to come forward and report the incidents.
“We realize how difficult it is for them to do such a thing,” he said.
“A number of these incidents go unreported. Their willingness to do so has made this community a safer place.”
Anyone with information relating to the incidents is asked to contact the RNC by calling 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Anonymous information can also be provided at www.nlcrimestoppers.com.