Finance expert ‘sexually assaulted woman on date after claiming he needed to frisk her for job-related security check’

·4-min read
 (Tony Palmer)
(Tony Palmer)

An international finance expert groped a university graduate he met through a dating website after claiming he needed to frisk her for his own protection, a court has heard.

Angelo Fernando, 46, is accused of sexually assaulting the woman at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster when she had been convinced a full-body search was “necessary” due to his “highly sensitive” work in the US aerospace defence industry.

The woman, a Masters student, had met Fernando – using the name ‘Stefan’ - through the SeekingArrangement dating website, and she had agreed in advance to a “professional and thoroughly airport-style security search” in advance of the date.

Fernando told her his drink had been spiked on a past date, Inner London crown court heard, and he accepts carrying out the frisk himself. But he denies allegations that he groped the woman’s breasts and touched her inappropriately between her legs.

Giving evidence about the incident on August 28, 2019, the woman said Fernando described her as “intelligent, elegant and classy” as they chatted online, complimenting her “expressive and captivating eyes”, as they arranged to meet in person. He said he was an economics graduate, a former City investment banker, and had worked in the world of private equity before establishing his own financial consultancy, specialising in defence, security and aviation.

“I thought he was some kind of spy that had a job that required you to have some sort of check”, she told jurors. “He painted a picture really well that excited me and he was someone that I’d like to meet.

“He told me he moved about the world and was not based in London.

“The story of what he was doing, what he did and how he had been spiked and needed this security operation just to go on a date sounded like a different world.”

They met at Waterloo Station before going to the hotel – across the river from the Houses of Parliament – and Fernando is accused of taking the woman to a secluded area near a fire exit.

“He started from the ankle up, all the way up and I felt very uncomfortable and told him to stop and he carried on with the other leg and the same thing happened again”, she said.

“He ran his hands down the side of my breasts and said: ‘Oh. You’re not wearing a bra’, and then ran his hands down the front. It was a slow cupping motion.”

She said Fernando insisted on “a search on every date he had with a female”, suggesting in advance that “it would be by a professional, a thorough airport-style security search”.

However on the date Fernando allegedly told her: “He didn’t have time to find anyone and would do it himself and I thought that was fine.”

“At the end he insinuated it was not as thorough a search as he would have liked”, she added. The woman said she had signed up to the dating website “because it sounded exciting”, and she denied the defence claim that she had gone on to ask Fernando for £3,000-a-month payments.

“You were looking for financial reward by going on that website”, suggested defence barrister Paul Webb.

She replied: “It was said of the site that you got taken for drinks and I guess there is a financial side to it, but I never asked for money if that’s what you are trying to insinuate.”

Mr Webb suggested she was after a “sugar daddy” and had wanted Fernando to bankroll a television project – claims she denied.

Jurors have heard Fernando - who told the court his legal first name is Stefan - admits performing the search but says it only involved him running his hands down the woman’s back and sides and beneath her bustline.

Within an hour of the date beginning, the woman had alerted hotel staff and the police had been called.

“I think it was a very well worked-out plan”, she told the court. “I was overwhelmed by what was going on, this guy had given me a massive story.”

Fernando, who lives in Surbiton, denies sexual assault.

The trial continues.

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