A VERGER sexually assaulted a woman at Wakefield Cathedral by squeezing her breasts, a court heard yesterday.
Nicholas Charles Whitaker, who is openly gay, worked part time at the cathedral, and had sung in its choir since he was a schoolboy. He is alleged to have groped the woman on the eve of a special ordination last summer.
Whitaker, 34, denies sexual assault, claiming he was just giving the woman a friendly bear hug.
Prosecutor Tony Kelbrick told the trial at Leeds Crown Court that the woman was talking to another verger when she became aware of Whitaker behind her.
The barrister said: “He put his arms round her, cupped her breasts and squeezed them for a period of time.”
Mr Kelbrick said the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, did not consent to it.
The woman told the trial she became aware of a shadowy figure behind her.
She said: “He grabbed hold of both of my breasts, groped, felt and squeezed.
“I just couldn’t move. I felt like a scarecrow because I couldn’t move my arms. He came up behind me like a shadow.
“The other verger stood watching him open-mouthed. I didn’t say anything.
“I didn’t know if he was going to hit me. I didn’t know what he was going to do next.
“He just stopped doing it and went off.”
The woman said the incident lasted “about thirty seconds to a minute” and left her feeling sick.
She believed Whitaker, of Richmond Road, St John’s, said something about her breasts.
She said: “I felt sick. Really sick.
“I went straight to the toilets and I just stood there in disbelief. I didn’t know what to do.
“I was trying to gather my thoughts. I couldn’t believe what had just happened.”
The woman said she couldn’t believe what had happened and tried to block it out.
She didn’t report the matter until later.
And Whitaker told police there was no sexual touching.
Cross examining the alleged victim defence barrister Charlotte Worsley, said: “What he says is he gave you a hug round the top and joined his arms around the front.
“And at no stage did he touch your breasts with his hands the way you describe.”
The complainant replied: “I know what he did, it’s on my brain one hundred per cent.”
Miss Worsley said: “He says if he touched your breasts it wasn’t deliberate it was wholly inadvertent.”
The witness replied: “He was there thirty seconds to a minute, it wasn’t just touching, he was squeezing, fondling up and down.”
Miss Worsley claimed Whittaker was just giving the woman “a rather clumsy, awkward hug. It may well be that his hands went in the wrong place”.
Miss Worsley further added: “But you wholly overreacted to what was meant to be fun.”
The witness denied the assertion.
Miss Worsley told the court it was quite clear that Whittaker was gay and that was the way he presented himself.
But prosecutor Mr Kelbrick said: “If he did what was said and cupped her breasts with his hands then what could that be other than a sexual touching.”
The case continues.