How the rape case against the RAU four collapsed

Four students were charged for raping a woman at their end of year ball – a month ago their case was dramatically dropped


Two years ago in May 2014, on a hot Friday night, 1,200 students from the prestigious Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester were celebrating the end of the year at their May ball. The theme was the Mad Hatters Tea Party. Tickets cost an expensive £85, and guests were served a hog roast and free alcohol from 8:30 till 5am. Set inside a big top style marquee, it was the main event of the year for all the students at the Oxbridge of the countryside.

Four friends, Leo Mahon, Thady Duff, Patrick Foster and James Martin, attended the big celebration, but the night, and what happened throughout, changed their lives. Having left the ball together with a girl, who cannot be named, midway through the night, they returned to her room and all had sex with her individually. None had slept with her previously, according to an interview with the Mail on Sunday published last weekend.

Later on in the night, at around 2am, Thady and Leo again returned to her room for more sex. Thady, he admits regretfully, filmed some of the sex on Snapchat and sent the clips to five or six friends. One of his friends saved the clip on Snapsave, and forwarded on further than Thady had initially sent.

Thady told the Mail: “Actually, it helped bring our case to an end because the clips showed exactly what happened – consensual sex. If it had really been rape as she claimed, who in their right mind would have filmed it and kept in on their mobile phone? It just didn’t make sense.”

The next day, rumours flew around the university – where the president is Prince Charles and notable alumni consist of countless Dukes, Viscounts and Earls as well as a Hawaiian Prince. The young woman had been to police and accused all four boys of rape. They all received an email from the vice principle Professor Paul Davies, banning them from campus and suspending them from the uni with immediate effect. An hour later they were arrested and taken to separate police stations. They were kept there for 13 hours.

Patrick said: “We were shocked. We wondered what the hell was going on. We knew nothing about the police being involved at this stage. I couldn’t make sense of it. It didn’t sink in. Rape is such a huge crime.”

It took 13 months for police to charge the men. Then last month, the boys walked free when evidence appeared to clear them, and the trial dramatically collapsed.

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The judge in the case Judge Jamie Tabor QC, has since scathed one of the detectives on the case for failing to disclose “game changing” evidence. The judge told Detective Constable Ben Lewis that he was “cherry picking” supportive evidence and “air brushing out of the picture” anything that could have helped the four men. Lewis, the officer in charge of the case, has since been accused of “vandalising the case” and even interviewing the alleged victim in her bedroom. Judge Tabor said the trial was so unfair it was like the boys had one hand tied behind their back.

Detectives were accused of burying data found on the girl’s phone which showed enough evidence to acquit the boys. Lewis, it is claimed, gave the girl a running commentary of everything the boys had said. The Crown decided there was no realistic chance of prosecution after texts on the girl’s phone were found describing another sexual encounter she had had four months after the trial. Patrick said: “We just felt this policeman wanted to send us to prison, whatever the reason.”

Since the young men’s names have been announced publicly they have had to endure all kinds of consequences, one has said the trial changed him. “I look at people differently now, a bit paranoid. It’s harder to trust anyone.”

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When we asked you if you thought those accused of rape and sexual assault should be kept anonymous, over 75 per cent of you thought they should. All four have now spoken publicly in the press – Thady, Leo and Patrick all spoke candidly to the Mail on Sunday about the trial’s effect on their lives. But with being named publicly before any conviction these four men are now likely to have this case hanging over them for years to come, effecting things such as employability and personal relationships according to one charity.

Margaret Gardner, the Director of the False Allegation Support Organisation (FASO) explained the impact on their lives. She said: “Anonymity should be there, no one is a victim until a verdict is reached. The allegation will be on their record now and any job that requires a criminal check will see the allegation and not hire them.”

Patrick agreed. He said, given the nature of their future professions, it would be hard to them to get a job from a “business that relies on local reputation” – which many do.

 

“Our futures don’t seem as bright as they once did,” admitted one of the boys. They had to hire three top QCs to fight their case for them and are left with huge legal bills. A police watchdog is now probing how the case collapsed. But the questions remains whether they will ever be truly innocent in the eyes of society.

For the girl, there is no condemnation from the boys she accused. Leo said: “I feel sorry for her. I wouldn’t want anyone who has been raped not to come forward because of our story. That would be terrible.”