Man, 37, accused of groping woman under blanket as he flew home from honeymoon


Robert Van Den Bergh, 37, has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault on the UK-bound flight from Hawaii to Heathrow after the woman complained he touched her thigh under a blanket

Robert Van Den Bergh
Robert Van Den Bergh is accused of groping thr student as he flew back to London in 2019

A newlywed accused of groping a student as he flew back from his honeymoon told a court he ‘cannot imagine I did anything like that’.

Robert Van Den Bergh, 37, allegedly slipped his hand beneath a blanket to deliberately stroke the passenger’s thigh as he sat next to her in economy class on the United Airlines flight.

The student had taken two sleeping pills and Van Den Bergh allegedly joked that the pills could make her unconscious.

She awoke to him touching the middle of her thigh as the motion grew ‘stronger and more deliberate’, jurors heard.

The woman had taken two sleeping pills and Van Den Bergh allegedly joked that the pills could make her unconscious.

The woman accused him of touching her on the United Airlines flight
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Image:

GettyImages)

The woman told Isleworth Crown Court that the groping went on for up to two hours on the flight.

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

The woman reported him to airline staff and when the aircraft landed in London, Van Den Bergh was escorted off by police officers.

The father-of-one told the court he ‘did not at any point intentionally touch the complainant during the flight’, adding: “This is not the kind of thing I would expect myself to do.”

The trial is being heard at Isleworth Crown Court
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Image:

Humphrey Nemar.)

His lawyer wife took 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.

Van Den Berg told jurors it was ‘very cramped’ in economy class.

He told jurors he spoke to the student, asking her to move her coat which was sprawled over his seat.

They had a ‘friendly conversation’ and he told her 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.

He was returning to Heathrow after his two-week honeymoon with his new wife
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Image:

GettyImages)

“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 in a navy blue pinstripe suit, a light blue shirt and patterned tie, Van Den Bergh told the court he did not drink any 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, who lives with his wife and six-month-old daughter in Hackney, east London, said they chatted about where they live and what they did for a living.

“I explained I recently moved to London Fields and she didn’t know the area which surprised me a bit.”

He said he dozed during the flight, but found time to watch films including Zombieland, Chariots of Fire and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Van Den Bergh said the woman nudged him awake twice when she wanted to go to the toilet, as she was sitting in the window seat and he was sitting in the middle.

On the second occasion, he took the opportunity to go to the toilet and stretch his legs then waited for her to return, but she never came back to her seat.

Shortly afterwards a member of cabin crew told him the woman who had been sitting next to him had ‘complained about inappropriate touching’, said Van Den Bergh.

“I was a bit shocked. I’ve never in my life been accused of inappropriately touching a woman.

“I cannot imagine I did anything like that. I can only imagine that I got in her way.”

He suggested he may have moved in his sleep, adding: “My wife often makes fun of me because I move or even caress her when I’m asleep.

“She always says you’re so cute when you do that. I have no recollection of it.”

After landing at Heathrow police officers boarded the aircraft, yelled his name then escorted him off the plane.

The analyst moved to London in 2017 after working in Geneva and Brussels for the same company.

Van Den Bergh denies sexual assault on the flight to Heathrow.

He attended court accompanied by his wife.

The trial continues.




www.mirror.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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