By Neil Sears
Last updated at 10:49 PM on 9th January 2012
The son of the Earl of Mansfield raped a sleeping 16-year-old girl after spiking her Ribena before trying to cover up the offence with a threatening text message, a court was told yesterday.
The Honourable James Murray, 41, had befriended the girl when she was just 15 and truanting from her comprehensive school, a jury heard.
But after a year of friendship during which Murray – who grew up at historic Scone Palace – is said to have plied her with alcohol and cash, she told police he had raped her in her sleep.
She claimed she woke up with her trousers around her knees and said he only confessed to having sex with her on an inflatable bed while she slept because a condom had split during the assault.
He then repeatedly urged her to get a morning-after pill to avoid pregnancy, she said.
Yesterday Murray – whose family home long housed the Stone of Scone used for crowning Scottish kings including Robert the Bruce – appeared at Oxford Crown Court.
He denies a charge of raping the girl, who is now 17, claiming that he had been in a consensual relationship with her for ten days.
But the prosecution claim that Murray, who was working as a computer engineer in Oxford when the incident took place, had forced himself on the girl when she was incapable of consenting, because she was ‘either asleep or insensible’.
Tim Clarke, prosecuting, told the court of a text message the accused is alleged to have sent the girl hours after the alleged rape, saying: ‘If you call the police and cry rape and that I spiked your Ribena, our friendship will be over. You can get a pill from Boots. James.’
Murray, whose father is one of the richest men in Britain with a fortune estimated at £60million, was once named as one of the country’s ‘top bachelors’.
He first met the girl when she was hanging around outside a corner shop close to his two-bedroom flat in Oxford.
The girl told police she had just come to the end of Year Ten and a friend was loudly mocking her in the street outside the shop for failing her exams.
In an interview with an officer which was videoed in 2010 the girl, who referred to Murray as Jamie, said: ‘Jamie walked out of the shop and started talking to us, and said “Oh, did you really fail all your exams?” Then he said “Don’t worry, I failed all my exams and I’ve got a job now, there’s nothing to worry about”.
‘A bit later me and my friends were sat on the wall outside his flat and he pulled up in his Smart car, and got out and started talking to us.’
The girl told police that – over the next few months – Murray started to invite her and her teenage friends to his flat, giving them alcohol and letting them play on his computers and watch TV.
The video was shown to the jury for an hour. After this, the girl appeared via video-link and was cross examined by Murray’s barrister.
She told the court Murray would give her lifts around town any time of the day or night except when he was working, and gave her and her friends money on request.
Eventually, she told the court, she began staying at his flat without telling her parents where she was, sleeping on the inflatable bed in his spare room.
Family: Viscount Stormont, the 8th Earl of Mansfield and his wife
She also claimed that at one stage – when she was increasingly being seen by the police because she was truanting from school and her parents were reporting her missing – a constable called at her home and discussed her relationship with the older man.
She told the jury: ‘The police came round saying Jamie wasn’t allowed to get in contact with me until I was 16.’
The court was told the girl had gone round to Murray’s flat at 9pm on a Friday in June 2010 and had watched films and used computers until around 2.30am.
Throughout the night, she told police, Murray kept offering her vodka, which she declined, accepting soft drinks instead.
The girl said to officers at the time: ‘He gave me coke, then Ribena with mashed up ice cubes. I don’t know if he put anything in it, but after drinking the Ribena I suddenly felt really tired all of a sudden.’
She fell asleep alone on the bed in the spare room in her tracksuit bottoms, ‘Snoopy’ bra and black hooded top, she said.
She claimed she woke up to find her trousers just above her knees and Murray naked in bed beside her.
The girl said: ‘Jamie said “Do you remember anything about last night?” I asked why. He said “Because I had sex with you when you were asleep”.’
She said he later began urging her to take the morning after pill, but that she then told police he had raped her.
Asked about her reaction to Murray’s actions, his alleged victim said: ‘It’s disgusting. Before, he seemed nice. He was funny, friendly, I could talk to him, we’d laugh about things on TV and joke about things generally. Now, I hate him.’
The girl spoke to police the day after the alleged rape. Murray was immediately interviewed under caution, telling officers he and the girl –16 for less than a month – had been lovers for ten days, and had had sex six times.
He was arrested that night. The girl denies ever consenting to sex with him.
Murray is the second son of the Earl of Mansfield, 81, and Pamela, the Countess of Mansfield, 76.
The Earl fought with the Scots Guards in Malaya and served under Margaret Thatcher as a minister of state in the Scottish and Northern Ireland Offices.
The family motto is ‘I hope for better things’, while Scone Palace in Perthshire lies at the centre of a 27,000-acre estate.
The case continues.