Woman said she felt ‘sick’ after being ‘groped’
She waited two weeks before reporting the incident
Nicholas Whitaker, 34, said he was only giving her a friendly hug
By Sam Greenhill
Last updated at 8:26 AM on 4th February 2012
A Cathedral verger who was accused of groping a woman as she waited for a service to start said yesterday that he was gay and ‘had no reason to touch her’.
Former school housemaster Nicholas Whitaker, 34, told a court that he was not interested in women ‘in the slightest’.
His defence clearly worked because the jury of eight women and four men at Leeds Crown Court took less than 30 minutes to find him not guilty of sexual assault.
Mr Whitaker was alleged to have approached the middle-aged woman from behind as she spoke to the head verger at Wakefield Cathedral.
The prosecution claimed he had put his arms around her and groped her breasts for up to a minute.
Yesterday the former music teacher said that it wasn’t impossible that he touched the woman’s breasts as he hugged her, but it was ‘certainly unintentional’ on his part.
He added that the hug would have lasted ‘at max two seconds, literally the time to say good morning’.
Mr Whitaker, who lives with his parents in Wakefield, said: ‘I would have no reason to touch her breasts, no wish to touch her breasts.
‘It’s not impossible that as I reached round that some part of my hands or lower arms did come in to contact with her breasts, but it was certainly unintentional on my part.’
Speaking about the incident last year, he said: ‘I thought it would be a fun idea to give her a brief hug from behind and say hello.’
He added that his hands were never open but were closed fists.
The court heard that Mr Whitaker had been at the cathedral to sing in the choir on July 2 last year.
He had seen the woman, who was known to him, talking to another verger and it is then that he was alleged to have come from behind and groped her.
Mr Whitaker said he didn’t know anything about the complaint until two weeks later, when he was called into his superior’s office and informed he was being suspended after an allegation of sexual harassment and was asked to leave the premises immediately.
He told the court he was ‘stunned’ and ‘mortified’.
Giving evidence on Thursday, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed: ‘He grabbed hold of both of my breasts and groped and felt and squeezed.
‘It was awful. 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.’
Speaking from behind a screen, she added: ‘It wouldn’t have made a difference if it was a man, a woman or an alien touching my breasts, I would have still felt the same way.’
The woman went on holiday the day after the alleged incident, reporting it to the police more than two weeks later.