A Tory peer grabbed a masseuse’s bottom, pointed to his groin and asked if she did “extras,” a court heard today.
Lord Holmes of Richmond, 48, denies sexual touching in the luxury hotel’s spa on March 7 last year.
The nine-time Paralympic champion, who went blind at 14, claims he was only trying to “trace her outline”.
But he is alleged to have firmly grabbed the masseuse’s bottom towards the end of the treatment, and asked if he could touch her breasts and give him sexual release.
He is also said to have taken advantage of the masseuse’s unease at being around blind people so he could “talk himself out of it”.
Southwark Crown Court heard that when she said she was a professional after the touching, Holmes asked her: “Are you sure you’ve never done it?”
Linda Strudwick, prosecuting, said Holmes had paid for a 90 minute massage costing £150, and may have initially broken the disposable underwear given to him before he went into the spa.
She said: “Mr Holmes had been given disposable underwear to use during the massage.
“This underwear appears to have become broken, whether Mr Holmes did this deliberately or it was an accident the prosecution quite do not know.
“It is right to say that these garments are not the sturdiest of underpants. Mr Holmes asked if he could take them off and [the woman] said that he could provided he ensured that the towel covered him.
“[The masseuse] noticed that Mr Holmes appeared to flick the towel so as to leave his buttocks uncovered.
“She assumed that this was accidental and so she recovered him tucking the towel under his stomach.
“As she was massaging his left thigh, he said that ‘she could go higher if she wanted to’.
“Mr Holmes grabbed her left arm and levered himself to sitting position asking whether he could see how she looked.
“[The masseuse] was a bit confused by that but agreed thinking that this was what blind people do.”
Ms Strudwick continued: “What happened next was a deliberate sexual assault.
“Mr Holmes wanted more than a massage.
“She began to feel uncomfortable and tried to move away from him. She was prevented from doing so by Mr Holmes grabbing her buttocks and thus holding her in place. That’s between his legs.
“He asked if he could touch her boobs and he pointed to his groin and asked if she did extras, plainly you may think a reference to her giving him some sort of sexual relief.
“She said, ‘no I am a professional’. She was shocked and she was embarrassed. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before.
“Mr Holmes realising that he was not going to get what he wanted he began to apologise and spent time reassuring and calming her.”
Ms Strudwick said Holmes denies any sexual touching, and read out a statement he gave to police.
He said: “As I am blind I cannot ‘see’ – but I can get a sense of what a person looks like through touch, which is the only sense I can use to get an image in my mind of people’s appearance.
“It is obviously a bit strange to be massaged by someone, without knowing what they look like. By touching I mean lightly tracing the outline of the other person rather than grabbing them in a firm way.
“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.
“I am certain that I did not ask the therapist for ‘extras’ and am adamant that I did not point to the area of my groin at any time.
“I did not ask the therapist for sexual services of any kind and I am well aware that those sorts of services are not available in respectable hotel spas, with trained massage therapists.
“I can completely understand that the therapist may have been confused and upset by my request to touch her as I cannot imagine that she sees very many completely blind clients, who would make a request of this kind.
“It is always difficult for me and other blind people to ask to touch sighed people, but it is a basic human instinct to want to know what somebody looks like and this is the only way we have.”
The prosecutor however said his “motives were not innocent”.
Ms Strudwick added: “To ask at the end when he was never going to see the masseuse again suggests his motives were not innocent.
“Some people do not like to be touched, some women wear makeup and dress their hair, and none of these matters were addressed by Mr Holmes.
“Rather, he knew that the sighted are often embarrassed and do not know what to do around blind people and he used that.
“Mr Holmes thought that if he was not successful in his bid for sexual release he could talk his way out of it.”
The prosecutor said the masseuse was “immediately upset” and told her manager, who said she was “shaking”.
Ms Strudwick added: “The defence will say that she has made up this allegation. That she is deliberately lying to gain some benefit, some compensation.
“Given her allegation was made immediately, when she was still shocked and has not changed at all, you may think that is not credible and that the defence are only using the only defence they have.
“You might also want to consider that if [the masseuse] is lying with a motive of financial gain, she might have made a rather more serious allegation.”
The court heard that Holmes did not want to be known by his full title, Lord Holmes of Richmond, at the hearings.
The politician, who wore a navy suit and a yellow striped tie, was led into Southwark Crown Court with defence counsel Sarah Forshaw QC and his assistant black Labrador, Nancy.
He was allowed to sit outside the dock to better hear the opening, although the jury was told Holmes will be returned when the complainant gives evidence behind a screen.
The Conservative life peer won six gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games and three at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996.
As an athlete, he broke 35 world records.
He was director of Paralympic integration for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games and took his seat in the House of Lords in 2013.
In politics he has campaigned for better disabled access and was asked to head a Government review into how to encourage more disabled people to apply for public appointments.
Holmes has sat on several of House of Lords select committees and introduced a private members bill to ban unpaid internships.
The trial continues.
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