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Cleaner saw Leifer in school with girls

Cleaner saw Leifer in school with girls

After days of testifying behind closed doors, a former cleaning assistant at a Jewish school has presented evidence in open court against Malka Leifer.

The 55-year-old former ultra-Orthodox headmistress faces 74 allegations of child sexual abuse involving three sisters during her time at Melbourne Adass Israel School between 2004 and 2008.

A Melbourne Magistrates Court hearing has been closed while two of the three sisters – Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper – testify.

The court opened briefly Thursday morning for Mario Toledo to give evidence through a Spanish interpreter.

He worked at the school as a cleaner for 16 years and retired in 2017.

Toledo told the court he would see Leifer at school when he worked on Sundays, both in her office and in nearby classrooms.

Sometimes she wanted one, two or three girls with her, but he said he never heard conversations between any of them.

“I’ve never been noticed,” he said.

Toledo said he never spoke to students at the school, but not because he was asked not to do so.

“They never gave me explicit instructions not to do it, but I understood the religion,” he said.

Occasionally students could ask for his help to move something and he would quickly help but said it was only for work.

Prosecutor Nanette Rogers said no further evidence would be summoned on Thursday and the court would continue behind closed doors on Friday when the other of the sisters resumes her evidence.

Leifer was not present in court for Thursday’s evidence, after being granted an exception for letting her observe the religious day of Yom Kippur.

No Jewish witnesses were to be called on Thursday either.

The trial is set to include evidence from nine witnesses.

Clinical psychologist Dr Vicki Gordon, former Adass Israel School teachers Esther Spiegelmen and Sharon Bromberg and former school consultant Chana Rabinowitz are among them.

Witnesses and Leifer, who are currently in Melbourne’s Women’s Prison, Dame Phyllis Frost Center, are all shown by video link.

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