City trader accused of 'sexually assaulting a student' is cleared

Newlywed City trader, 37, accused of ‘sexually assaulting a sleeping student as he flew back from his honeymoon’ is cleared by a jury in under three hours of deliberations

  • A man accused of groping a dozing student on an aeroplane has been cleared
  • Energy analyst Robert Van Den Bergh ‘stroked a woman’s thigh for up to 2 hours’
  • The 37-year-old was returning to Heathrow after a two-week Hawaii honeymoon
  • His wife travelled in a separate plane after the route he booked increased in cost

City trader Robert Van Den Bergh, 37, was accused of caressing the dozing woman’s thigh on the flight to Heathrow

A newlywed accused of groping a dozing student as he flew back from his Hawaiian honeymoon has been cleared after he insisted he did not intentionally touch her.

The passenger said energy analyst Robert Van Den Bergh, 37, stroked her thigh for up to two hours as he sat next to her in economy class on a United Airlines flight.

Van Den Bergh was returning to Heathrow after a two-week honeymoon on the island of Maui.

The economics student had taken two sleeping pills and told Isleworth Crown Court that she was frozen with fear.

She reported the married father-of-one to airline staff and he was escorted off the plane by police officers when it landed.

Van Den Bergh was cleared by a jury of sexual assault after he insisted he ‘did not at any point intentionally touch the complainant during the flight.’

He told the court: ‘I refute the allegation 100 per cent. I had not started to intentionally touch her, I had not done such a thing.’

The jury of five men and seven women had found him not guilty of sexual assault after deliberating for two hours and 43 minutes.

The case was a retrial after the first jury failed to reach a verdict in February.

According to his LinkedIn profile Van Den Bergh has worked as a power and coal analyst at the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom.

He embraced his lawyer wife Romy after hearing the verdict, who wept tears of joy.

Jurors were told that the student awoke to Van Den Bergh (pictured arriving at Isleworth Crown Court with his wife in February) touching the middle of her thigh

Giving evidence the alleged victim said: ‘I felt his fingers grazing my left thigh. I was unsure whether it was intentional or not.

‘At first [the touching] was light and unnoticeable but it gradually grew in confidence and after two hours I knew that it was intentional.

‘There was more pressure over time, and it was long strokes. I tried to move more towards the window of the plane.

‘At one point it went towards where my underwear was, towards the end of my thigh and my bum.

‘I felt like he was picking at my underwear and feeling the contours of it, as though he was sort of lifting the seam a little bit.

‘I just was very scared and I didn’t know what to do in the situation. I was just full of fear.’

Defence counsel Sasha Wass, QC, had asked Van Den Bergh: ‘Did you intentionally touch the leg of the woman sitting next to you?’

‘Not at all. I never intentionally touched her,’ he said.

Ms Wass asked: ‘Did you consider it unusual that the lady by the window seat was not coming back to sit down?’

Van Den Bergh replied: ‘I didn’t really pay attention to it.’

In a police interview, he had described being woken up mid-flight as ‘awkward’.

Prosecutor Richard Scott asked him: ‘Was it awkward because you knew what you had done?’

‘No, not at all — because I was asleep.’

Mr Scott asked: ‘When you found out she wasn’t coming back, were you concerned?

Van Den Bergh replied: ‘No I did not pay attention to it. That was it for me, I don’t know what happened.’

Mr Scott asked: ‘It must have occurred to you that you were the reason why she hadn’t returned?’

The analyst replied: ‘No, lots of people get up in these flights.’

Mr Scott asked: ‘You thought you could get away with it didn’t you?’

Van Den Bergh said: ‘I have never thought anything like that. I just woke up and I didn’t know anything. I just went back to sleep. I never intentionally touched her.’

His wife had taken a different flight home after the two week honeymoon in late 2019 because the route he had booked had increased in price, so she found another ticket.

Robert Jan Van Den Bergh, 37, (pictured arriving at Isleworth Crown Court with his wife in February)has been found not guilty of sexual assault

Van Den Bergh had said during his first trial that he told the woman a ‘funny’ anecdote about his former boss who once took too many sleeping pills and had to be carried off a plane.

She told him she was going to take two sleeping pills because she had previously taken one but it did not work.

‘She offered me a pill too and I politely declined,’ he said.

‘I’ve never taken sleeping pills in my life and I was not going to start taking it.’

Smartly dressed Van Den Bergh had told the first trial he did not drink alcohol during the flight.

‘I think I did it once when I was 14 on a flight and I don’t think it’s very agreeable,’ he said.

Van Den Bergh, of Hackney, east London, added that he dozed during the flight, but found time to watch films including Zombieland, Chariots of Fire and Mad Max: Fury Road.

He denied the allegations and was cleared of sexual assault on the flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow, between December 31, 2019 and January 1, 2020.

Source: Read Full Article