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Cop ‘infatuated’ with underage girl: court

Former police prosecutor Mario Didulica was jailed in June after a jury found him guilty on two counts of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16. Picture: Supplied
Former police prosecutor Mario Didulica was jailed in June after a jury found him guilty on two counts of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16. Picture: Supplied

A former police prosecutor jailed over the sexual abuse of a teenage girl he was in a secret relationship with has lost his bid to overturn the conviction.

Mario Simon Didulica, 52, sought leave to appeal the jury’s verdict after he was found guilty of two counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16 at trial.

But in the Court of Appeal on Thursday, a panel of three judges refused his attempt to appeal the conviction.

Didulica was jailed for three years in June in the Victorian County Court after he was extradited from Bosnia in 2019.

He had moved to Croatia after the relationship came to light – as a dual-citizen he could not be extradited – but was arrested after crossing the border into Bosnia.

The County Court was told Didulica was a serving police officer when he met the girl more than a decade ago, quickly developing an “inappropriate infatuation” with her.

Before the girl’s parents became suspicious and alerted authorities, the pair exchanged more than 30,000 text messages in a five-month period across the multiple phones and SIM cards he provided to hide their relationship.

Mario Didulica was jailed for three years. Picture: Supplied.
Mario Didulica was jailed for three years. Picture: Supplied.

At the time Didulica gave the young girl a passport application and promised to whisk her away to France where “it was legal for you to be together”.

The court was told some of his colleagues were aware he was having an extramarital affair and he had shown them a picture of the girl.

He had claimed she was older than she was and he was waiting for her to turn 18.

In a victim impact statement, the girl said she had been forced to live with the shame of being called a “homewrecker” in her community.

“I was slandered and bullied everywhere I went,” she said.

“My innocence was taken from me; I was forced to grow up a lot earlier than I needed to and was exposed to things that no young teenager should be exposed to.”

In the appeal, Didulica argued that the jury’s verdict on both charges was unreasonable and should be quashed, and Judge Liz Gaynor had made a mistake by refusing to permanently stay one charge.

“Carrying out our own independent assessment of the evidence, we consider that it was well open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the applicant’s guilt,” Justices Phillip Priest, Lesley Taylor and Robert Osborn wrote.

“The court is of the view this application for leave to appeal against conviction should be refused.”

Didulica will be eligible for parole in April next year.