Ex-Tory lord 'touched woman's buttocks during massage' at five-star hotel

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Lord Holmes of Richmond (left) leaves Westminster Magistrates' Court, London where he appeared on charges of sexual assault. (PA Images)

An ex-Tory lord who is one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians has denied sexually assaulting a woman at a five-star hotel.

Lord Holmes of Richmond – whose name is Christopher Holmes – is accused of touching the alleged victim at a central London hotel on 7 March, 2019.

The 47-year-old nine-time Paralympic swimming champion, who is blind, pleaded not guilty to the charge at Southwark Crown Court in August last year. His trial got underway today at the same court.

A jury heard on Wednesday that he grabbed a woman’s buttocks and asked if she “did extras” while she was massaging him at the hotel.

Linda Strudwick, prosecuting, told jurors that Holmes assaulted the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, towards the end of the 90-minute session.

“He asked, ‘Can I see how you look?’ [She] was unsure of what he meant but assumed that it was whether could he touch her face,” Strudwick said.

An exterior view of Southwark Crown Court in London.

The woman agreed, “thinking that this was what blind people do”, and Holmes admitted touching the woman’s face, shoulders, sides and resting his hands around the level of her hips.

She then tried to move away, the court was told, but he grabbed her buttocks, said “nice”, and asked if he could touch her breasts.

The jury heard he told her she could “go higher” as she massaged his thigh, and asked to remove the disposable underwear provided for the massage.

In a statement heard in court, Holmes said he did it “purely to give me an idea of her appearance”.

“It is obviously a bit strange to be massaged by someone without knowing what they look like,” he 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.”

The masseuse, giving evidence while crying behind a screen in court, said she felt “ashamed and uncomfortable” when he allegedly touched her.

“He was patronising, making remarks and being a disgrace,” she said.

“Then he was shushing me. I said this is not appropriate, you are making me uncomfortable.

“I just wanted to finish the treatment and be out of there.”

She told the court that during the massage, Holmes “flicked the towel a few times and that exposed his buttocks”.

She later told her manager and boyfriend what happened, the court heard, and was encouraged to contact the police about the incident.

Holmes won six gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games and three in Atlanta 1996.

He broke 35 records in his time as an athlete before moving into sports management and politics.

He also held the role of director of Paralympic integration in the London 2012 games.

Lord Holmes was previously a Tory peer but is now unaffiliated. He has sat on a number of committees in the House of Lords and introduced a private members bill to tackle unpaid internships.

His website says he campaigns for accessible environments for disabled people and headed a review for the government on how to encourage disabled people to apply for public appointments.

The trial continues.