Jury out in nightclub groping case

A FRIEND of a Suffolk soldier accused of groping a nurse on the dance floor of an Ipswich nightclub and assaulting two of her friends has denied telling lies to “help out his mate”.

Jane Hunt

A FRIEND of a Suffolk soldier accused of groping a nurse on the dance floor of an Ipswich nightclub and assaulting two of her friends has denied telling lies to “help out his mate”.

Lance Corporal Luke Grattan told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that he had been at Fire and Ice in Ipswich with his friend and colleague Richard Bennett and had not seen him sexually assault a woman on the dance floor or punch or kick two of her friends.

Cross-examined by prosecution counsel Lindsay Cox, Lance Corporal Grattan, who serves in the Royal Engineers with Bennett, denied that he had come to court to lie to help out his friend.


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“Let me blunt, you are doing what you can and saying what you can to help your mate out,” said Mr Cox, to which Lance Corporal Grattan replied: “No”.

Bennett, who is based at barracks in Woodbridge, has denied sexual assault, assault causing actual bodily harm and two offences of assault by beating on January 29 this year.

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Earlier this week Judge John Holt directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict on one of the charges of assault by beating.

It has been alleged that on the night in question 21-year-old Bennett had been at the Fire and Ice nightclub in Tacket Street, Ipswich, and had grabbed a 31-year-old nurse by her crotch with both hands from behind and had pulled her against his groin.

Another nurse saw him approaching her and told him she wasn't interested.

As she turned her back on him Bennett had allegedly pushed her and punched her in the face causing a small mark under her eye. She had then allegedly seen him shove one of her friends sufficiently hard to knock her to the floor and then kick her while she was on the ground.

Bennett, who has been in the army for five years told the court that during the evening he had approached a woman on the dance floor but had been rebuffed by her. He had decided to try to introduce himself to her again and was again rebuffed.

He claimed he had then been confronted by two of the woman's friends, one of whom had “clawed” his neck leaving a scratch. He said he pushed the woman away and had then been grabbed by a number of women and had put out his arms to protect himself.

Lance Corporal Grattan said he had seen Bennett try to talk to a woman and had then seen one of her friends grab him by the neck.

He saw Bennett push the woman away and denied seeing him punch her in the face.

He said he had then seen another woman on the floor and denied seeing Bennett kick or punch her.

He claimed that Bennett had then been set upon by three or four women and had put out his arms to keep them away from him.

The jury retired to consider its verdicts yesterday and will return to court today to continue its deliberations.

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