United Kingdom

Masseuse 'can't remember' why she gave several conflicting accounts over Lord Holmes 'assault'

A masseuse accusing a blind Paralympian swimming champion of grabbing her bottom 'does not remember' why she gave several conflicting accounts of the attack, a court heard.

Lord Christopher Holmes of Richmond MBE, 48, allegedly groped the woman's buttocks at a five star hotel's spa on March 7 last year.

The visually impaired Tory peer denies sexually assaulting the masseuse and in a statement to police said as a blind person he can get a sense of what a person looks like through touch. 

Giving evidence behind her screen, the woman in her 30s, claimed that after the assault, her job as a masseuse became a 'trigger' for unwanted memories and flashbacks.

But the court was told there was evidence she continued to enjoy certain activities such as yoga and boxing, despite claiming they acted as 'reminders of the trauma'.

Furthermore, the court heard that the woman had told a friend that Holmes, as well as groping her buttocks, had 'held her hand down and kept her against the wall' but that these details were not relayed to the jury.

Asked today whether this had happened, she replied: 'I don't remember'. 

Tory peer and British Paralympic champion Lord Christopher Holmes (right) is accused of grabbing a masseuse's bottom at a five star hotel's spa. Left: Lord Holmes with his guide dog and a woman believed to be his wife outside Southwark Crown Court

Holmes had earlier said: 'As I am basing my recollection only on touch I cannot be sure exactly where my hands rested but there was absolutely no intention to touch her in a sexual way.

'It was purely to give me an idea of her appearance.'

Sarah Forshaw defending the peer, reminded her she had told her counsellor 'activities which I used to enjoy in the past such as yoga have become strong reminders of the trauma.'

The woman told the court: 'I wasn't looking after myself, I wasn't able to exercise.

'It wasn't just yoga, it was in general.'

Who is British Paralympic champion Lord Christopher Holmes?

Lord Holmes was a champion swimmer, winning six gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games and three at the Atlanta Paralympics. 

He also broke 35 world records before moving into top roles in sports management and politics.

He was director of Paralympic integration for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games before taking his seat in the House of Lords in 2013.

His website says he campaigns for more accessible environments for disabled people and has been asked to head a Government review that will make recommendations on how to encourage more disabled people to apply for public appointments.

Lord Holmes has also sat on a number of House of Lords select committees and has introduced a private members bill to tackle unpaid internships. 

But in WhatsApp conversations with her boyfriend following the alleged attack the woman said she was looking forward to classes and posting selfies in yoga outfits.

There were also references to boxing classes, which she had also claimed she could not face.

Ms Forshaw asked her: 'When did that post traumatic stress disorder kick in, that you didn't want to do boxing anymore?'

'When I was constantly reminded and being told by the police of what happened,' said the woman.

'I was trying to be strong and it overwhelmed me.'

Earlier the court heard that the woman has been arrested in December 2019, for allegedly assaulting a police officer while 'roaring drunk'.

She is currently bringing a claim against the police for unlawful arrest, saying her 'human rights were broken'.

Ms Forshaw asked: 'Did it overwhelm you when you were arrested for assaulting a police office?'

'No comment,' the alleged victim replied.

The former masseuse complained that the constant reminders 'broke her as a strong woman', with police even contacting her when she was on holiday in Santorini.

The barrister asked her: 'Was it that a client touched your bottom that caused you such distress or the idea that you had to go to court and say so on it?'

'The incident that he grabbed my bottom,' said the woman. 

Ms Forshaw said: 'I suggest to you deliberately exaggerated the impact on you of what happened in the treatment room with Lord Holmes and what happened when you were drunk and arrested.'

The woman replied: 'I did not exaggerate.'

Jurors heard that the aftermath of the assault left her 'sick all the time' at work due to flashbacks and she had to take many days off.

But Ms Forshaw told her she was 'sickly' prior to the incident and her taking sick days had caused friction with her agency.

Holmes (centre with his meddles), who is a life peer in the House of Lords, is Britain's most successful Paralympic swimmer, with a total of nine golds, five silvers and one bronze

In her statement to the police, the woman said her relationship with her boyfriend had 'become strained' and they argued a lot as a result of the incident.

'You told us you have broken up with [your boyfriend] seven times and you broke up before March 7,' said Ms Forshaw.

'We were on a break, we were not broken up,' replied the woman.

Earlier in her description of the alleged assault, the woman told jurors that Holmes had squeezed her face in an uncomfortable way before moving to her backside.

In her initial statement to the police, however, she said he'd 'patted' her head with an open palm.

'Is the pinching just one of those little bits of details you added as you went along,' asked Ms Forshaw.

'No,' she replied.

Referring to the woman's counselling sessions, Ms Forshaw suggested that this was the first time the 'face pinching' came up.

'Those sessions are extremely private and it makes me extremely embarrassed,' said the woman, her voice shaking.

'Now it is out, everything.

'It is extremely embarrassing for me to go through my counselling notes.

'I thought it was a safe space for me to say what I was thinking.'

Holmes, joined in the dock by his assistance dog, black Labrador, Nancy, denied one charge of sexual assault at London's Southwark Crown Court (file image pictured)

A series of messages the woman had sent to a friend back in Poland in which she suggested Holmes had grabbed her arms was then read out in court.

'After he touched your bum, you are suggesting to [friend] that after what happened he grabbed you by the arms and wanted you to do extras,' said Ms Forshaw.

The woman replied: 'To be honest I didn't want to give her detail.'

She also told her friend that Holmes had held her hand down and kept her against the wall.

'He didn't hold your hand, at least if he did, you didn't tell this jury about it.

'So did it happen or didn't it happen that he held your hand down,' asked Ms Forshaw.

'I don't remember,' said the woman.

The jury also heard that she had initially described Holmes as 'grabbing' her by the shoulder to the police.

Ms Forshaw told her: 'He may have traced your shoulders and I will even suggest that he did trace your shoulders but he didn't grab her shoulders.'

'I don't remember,' she replied.

'The reality is that you build things up in your head and that is what you have done on this occasion,' said Ms Forshaw.

'You thought Lord Holmes had taken a liberty by tracing your silhouette and not just your face and you convinced yourself he must have been a sexual motive.'

Ms Forshaw added that there was in fact 'nothing sexual about what happened.

'And then you added some exaggerated detail you would say and some things you just made up to make it seem more serious than it was,' she added.

'I do not agree with that,' said the woman.

Holmes, who has been attending court each day with a woman thought to be his wife, is joined in the dock by his service dog, a black Labrador called Nancy.

A life peer in the House of Lords, he is Britain's most successful Paralympic swimmer, with a total of nine gold medals, five silvers and one bronze. 

Holmes, of Richmond, Surrey, denies one count of sexual assault.

The trial continues. 

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