Former Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs was “idolised” for his skills on the pitch but behind closed doors had “a much uglier and more sinister side to his character”, a court has heard.
Jurors at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court were told the 48-year-old’s private life involved a “litany of abuse, both physical and psychological, of a woman he professed to love”.
Giggs is accused of using controlling and coercive behaviour against ex-girlfriend Kate Greville between August 2017 and November 2020.
He is also charged with assaulting the 36-year-old, causing her actual bodily harm, and of the common assault of her younger sister, Emma Greville, at his home in Worsley, Greater Manchester, on November 1 2020.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Opening the case on Monday, prosecutor Peter Wright QC said of the defendant: “He was idolised by his adoring fans and supporters. On the pitch his skills were abundant and a thing of beauty.
“Off the pitch, in the privacy of his own personal life at home or behind closed doors, there was, we say the facts reveal, a much uglier and more sinister side to his character.
“This was a private life that involved a litany of abuse, both physical and psychological, of a woman he professed to love.
“A woman who, in reality, was, if the evidence is to be believed, treated in a way that cannot be excused or overlooked, by either an adoring public, or the law.
“This is a story of control and coercion of a woman who thought she was loved and respected; sadly the reality was very different.”
The barrister continued: “Eventually, after years of turbulence, when the scales fell from her eyes, she realised she needed to remove herself from his sphere of influence.”
Mr Wright said the result of this decision to break away was the incident on November 1 2020, when Giggs is said to have “lost control” and headbutted Ms Greville.
While out together with friends at Manchester’s Stock Exchange Hotel that evening Ms Greville decided to terminate their relationship, said Mr Wright.
He said: “She knew that the defendant had once again been cheating on her.
“During the evening the defendant’s behaviour towards her led to her making that decision and make an early departure. In advance of her return home she informed her sister by text message of her plan.
“She intended to make her departure before he got back from the hotel. The plan did not work.
“As she was vacating the defendant’s home address, he came back and began arguing with her and trying to stop her leaving.”
The prosecutor said she took his phone as a “bargaining chip” to try to persuade him not to prevent her from going.
A heated argument followed and Giggs then attempted to grab her phone, which was later found on a fence post in the garden of the property, said Mr Wright.
In the altercation that followed they grappled together on the floor before Ms Greville’s sister stepped in, the court heard.
Mr Wright said: “She (Emma Greville) tried to pull the defendant off her sister. For her pains the defendant, we say, deliberately elbowed her in the jaw causing her discomfort and shock that he would turn violence on to her as well her sister.
“The argument between the defendant and Kate Greville moved to the kitchen. The couple continued to argue about her mobile phone.
“At that stage, we say, the defendant entirely lost self-control and he deliberately headbutted Kate, thereby causing swelling to her lips and bruising. Emma then called the police, who attended the premises.”
Giggs stood down in June as manager of the Wales national team following a period of leave since November 2020.
During his time at Old Trafford, Manchester United won 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies, four FA Cups and three League Cups.
He won 64 caps for Wales and is co-owner of League Two side Salford City.
Mr Wright told the jury he would give a “snapshot” of the nature of the relationship between the defendant and Ms Greville, a woman more than 10 years younger than him.
Ms Greville would block Giggs on social media then he would email her instead, he said.
Giggs would threaten to send images of her, “of a personal nature”, to her friends unless she did what he said, it was alleged.
He physically threw her, and her belongings, out of an address they were staying at, after Ms Greville challenged him about another woman and threw an item at her in a bust-up in a hotel room in London, the jury heard.
Giggs would harass Ms Greville with messages including messages to her friends and turn up “unwanted” at her house or the gym she used.
Mr Wright added: “This was not an expression of love, this is obsessive behaviour by him.”
Mr Wright gave the jury a flavour of some of the “thousands” of messages the pair exchanged.
He cited one from Giggs, which stated: “Please unblock me. All this blocking malarkey is poo. Promise, no more naked piccies.”
“You may wish to wonder what he was threatening to do,” Mr Wright added.
Minutes later Giggs sent an email with an attachment, with the subject header of “Blackmail.”