Former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie has described an allegation that he grabbed a woman’s breasts at a Christmas party as “crazy” and ludicrous”.
The 55-year-old told his sexual assault trial at Southwark Crown Court that he had previously been made out to be an “aggressive, sexual monster” by the tabloid press, as he denied ever assaulting any woman, saying it is “not in my nature”.
His voice breaking at times in the witness box, where he had chosen to stand rather than sit, he said his life had been changed completely in 2002 when he was named on television in relation to a rape claim.
The jury heard that in that year Leslie’s former girlfriend, Ulrika Jonsson, had said in her autobiography that she had been raped by someone whom she did not name.
Leslie was named by presenter Matthew Wright on television as the attacker but Wright later apologised, saying he named him in error, the court was told.
Leslie said there had never been any sexual assault allegations against him before his name was wrongly linked to the book, and described the fallout as “armageddon”.
He said: “Overnight it was just crazy and my life was never the same again.”
He said the tabloids were “gunning for me”, adding that “they decided I was their man”, and said there had been “adverts for women to come forward with allegations”.
In 2003 two charges of indecent assault made by one woman were dropped and not guilty verdicts were recorded at the same court where he is now on trial.
He told the court he had become reclusive, depressed and suicidal, saying: “I lost everything”.
While he told the jury he had tried to become more social again in the years that followed, around the time of the alleged assault in 2008 he described himself as being “paranoid” on any social outing.
The complainant alleges he made a “solid grab” of both her breasts immediately after shaking hands at a gathering in London’s West End and that she had been left shocked.
But Leslie denied the claim, saying: “The idea that I would do that is just crazy, especially the way that I was with everything that had been going on. I was paranoid, I was aware and conscious of wherever I was. To go up to a total stranger I had never met and do that is just ludicrous.
“I would have said hello, I would have talked to her. I would not have touched her like some mannequin and walked off.”
Asked about a claim made by another witness in the trial that he might have “squeezed your bottom” at a party, he said: “That’s just not true”.
He told the jury: “I have never assaulted anybody. I would never do that. It’s not in my nature.”
Leslie, 55, who has an address in Edinburgh, denies sexual assault by intentionally touching the woman without her consent on December 5 2008.
The trial was adjourned until Thursday morning when Leslie will continue to give evidence.