GHB TRIAL: Accused 'delivered flowers to NHS heroes', jury told

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GHB TRIAL: Accused 'delivered flowers to NHS heroes', jury told
GHB TRIAL: Accused 'delivered flowers to NHS heroes', jury told

A drug-rape accused volunteered to deliver flowers to NHS staff at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a jury heard.

The director of the Battersea floristry business for which Luiz da Silva Neto worked said he had offered to deliver bouquets to front-line NHS staff at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

Another character referee, Paula Devonport, described the defendant – her son’s partner – as ‘a very thoughtful, kind-hearted and considerate person’.

In her reference, read to jurors at Oxford Crown Court this afternoon, the 77-year-old said she signed-off letters and messages to da Silva Neto as ‘English mum’.

The 35-year-old is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting two men in a cottage in Middle Barton, west Oxfordshire, in November and December last year. Prosecutors allege he gave the men an unknown substance, initially said to have been drug GHB, in order to carry out the assaults.

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The defendant, of Wandsworth, strenuously denies wrongdoing – telling jurors this week that the sexual encounters with the men were consensual and even initiated by them.

This afternoon, three character witnesses were read to the court by defence barrister Merry van Woodenberg.

Ms Devonport, a car home compliance manager from West Sussex, said she had known the defendant for five or six years – since he began dating her son, Andy.

She described da Silva Neto as ‘very endearing’ and had a ‘very nice nature’. They had holidayed together, including a three-week trip to Australia in 2019, and he would often buy her gifts when he went shopping. “I see myself as his English mum,” she said.

Another referee, Georgie Fowle, 33, knew the defendant through work he had done for a Battersea-based floristry business. The events manager described him as ‘professional and hard-working’.

A director of the flower firm, Leanne Roberts-Hewitt, 50, said da Silva Neto had volunteered to deliver bouquets of flowers to NHS staff across London in March 2020. A large event had been cancelled and the blooms arranged into bouquets given to healthcare workers facing the coronavirus pandemic.

Da Silva Neto, of Riverlight Quay, Wandsworth, denies administering a substance with intent and engaging in penetrative sexual activity without consent with two men. He is accused of the rape and kidnap of the second man, against whom the defendant is accused of committing an offence with intent to commit a sexual offence.

The trial continues.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward

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