Lady Lavinia denies 17 counts of sexual abuse allegations

Lavinia Nourse, 77, of The Severals, Newmarket, arrives at Knights Chamber, Peterborough Cathedral V

Lavinia Nourse, 77, of The Severals, Newmarket, arrives at court in Peterborough - Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

The widow of a Court of Appeal judge told police that allegations of historical sexual abuse against her were "cloud cuckoo land", a jury heard. 

Lady Lavinia Nourse, of The Severals, Newmarket, has denied 17 counts of sexually abusing a boy under the age of 12 in the 1980s

Lady Lavinia, the widow of High Court judge Sir Martin Nourse, who died in 2017 aged 85, is on trial at Peterborough's Nightingale court at the city's cathedral. 

The 77-year-old was voluntarily interviewed about allegations of historical sexual abuse at Parkside police station in Cambridge in January 2019 with a solicitor present, the court heard.

A transcript of part of her interview under police caution was read to the jury, with Det Con Mark Beaven reading his lines and Lady Lavinia's responses read by prosecution barrister Jennifer Knight QC.

In the interview transcript, Mr Beaven asked Lady Lavinia: "What account could you give me about that allegation?"

Lavinia Nourse, 77, of The Severals, Newmarket, arrives at Knights Chamber, Peterborough Cathedral V

Lady Lavinia has denied 17 counts of sexually abusing a boy in the 1980s - Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

She replied: "It simply never happened."

She told the officer: "I had depression, mental breakdown, I suffer from quite severe depression."

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Mr Beaven asked if this "incapacitated" her, to which she replied: "Yes, I was receiving therapy."

She told the detective she was "pretty shocked" when she heard about the boy's allegations.

"To me this is a complete fantasy," she said.

"I don't know what he's talking about."

Later in the interview, she said: "I'm finding this very difficult. It really is cloud cuckoo land."

Dame Mary Archer gave evidence as a defence witness at the trial on Thursday. 

Defence barrister Jonathan Caplan QC introduced Dame Mary to jurors as the wife of Lord Jeffrey Archer, chairman of the science museum and president of Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust in Cambridge.

Dame Mary said that she first met Lady Lavinia in 1980 when they were both living in Grantchester, near Cambridge, and Lady Lavinia asked if she would open her garden to the public as part of a scheme she was helping with.

Asked to describe Lady Lavinia's character, she said: "Kind-hearted, generous.

"If I say house-proud that's not what I mean to say, but her two houses that I knew were always beautifully done."

A general view of the Nightingale court at Knights Chamber, Peterborough Cathedral Visitor And Learn

Peterborough's Nightingale court at the city's cathedral - Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

She said she recalled a time "in the early 80s when she didn't seem so well", adding that she did not know the reason for this.

"I leapt to the conclusion that she must have had a miscarriage or something," she said.

She added that Lady Lavinia was "one of my closest friends and one of my oldest friends too".

Lady Lavinia denies all charges and the trial continues.