NEW YORK (Reuters) - Before she started working at the Sofitel hotel in New York’s bustling Times Square area, the maid who accused IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her spent her daily life within the same few city blocks.
The neighbourhood where she lived and worked, a section of the Bronx lined with tiny grocers, hair salons and dollar stores, once infamously violent, is a hilly place called Concourse just north of Yankee Stadium.
There, the single mother and widow from Guinea used to work an evening shift in a tiny takeout joint, African American Restaurant, located on the corner of a busy intersection. She lived with her daughter; most recently in an apartment building just 12 blocks away.
“She helped my wife,” said the restaurant’s owner, Bahoreh Jabbie, 60, who said he hired her after she came into the restaurant and asked his wife, Fatima, for help finding a job.
“She walked by herself when she came and she walked by herself when she left,” he said, “I never saw her taking a free ride from nobody.”
Jabbie, who immigrated to New York from Gambia and has run the restaurant since 2002, said he knew little of the woman’s life outside the restaurant, but that her daughter would come in occasionally to buy something.
Other details of the woman’s existence remain mysterious. Leaders of an organization that supports immigrants from a specific region in the woman’s native Guinea in West Africa are trying to contact her to offer their help.
“She came to our attention on the news,” said Mamadousidy Barry, 38, a spokesman for the organization called Pottalfiibhantal.
Barry believes the woman is from the region Pottalfiibhantal focuses on: Fouta Djallon, in central Guinea.
But the leader of the mosque where Pottalfiibhantal operates has said he does not know her. She was not actively involved in the Muslim community which people in the neighbourhood say should have been hers, based on her native region.
“There are some people, they just like to be alone and take care of their own business,” Barry said.
Prosecutors have accused Strauss-Kahn, 62, of attacking the woman when she entered his suite, apparently unaware it was occupied.
During Strauss-Kahn’s first appearance at Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday, prosecutors said he had sexually assaulted the maid, attempted to rape her and then forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers denied the charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. He was denied bail on Monday and a bail hearing is due to be held on Thursday.
Editing by Sandra Maler