A married hedge fund manager accused of launching an “octopus”-like assault on a junior investment banker he found attractive has been cleared.
Crispin Odey nodded briefly at the district judge after he was found not guilty of one count of indecently assaulting the woman at his home in Chelsea in 1998, having invited her round while his pregnant wife was away.
Father-of-three Mr Odey, 62, admitted raising the possibility of sleeping with the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but denied one count of indecent assault.
Returning his verdict at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, district judge Nicholas Rimmer said: “I am left unsure of (the complainant’s account) because despite the strength of her emotion and tears, her credibility has been thrown into question and her evidence is riddled with troubling inconsistencies.”
Giving evidence from the witness box Mr Odey said: “I am embarrassed to say if she had gone along with it, I would have gone further.”
Asked if he would have “taken the opportunity” to sleep with her that night, had it arisen, Mr Odey replied: “I might have … I don’t know, it didn’t happen.”
Defence counsel Crispin Aylett QC cited “contradictions” in her evidence and said she had a “natural tendency to embellish and exaggerate”, which he said made her “look like an unreliable historian”.
The court heard the complainant went to the police in 2017 in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which sprang out of widespread disclosures about disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
Mr Aylett, summing up, said she “waited and waited until events on the other side of the world led her to believe she might become a standard bearer for a regiment of other complaints against Crispin Odey”.
The judge, returning his verdict, said: “I find troubling her (the complainant’s) obvious preoccupation with the press, with your money, and her apparent desire for publicity of her complaint.”
He added: “Where there is any doubt in a criminal case, given the high standard of proof, it must be resolved in favour of the defendant.
“I cannot dismiss the possibility that no more than your unwanted verbal advance or proposition to the complainant occurred on the evening in question.”
The judge said he found it “unsurprising” that the Crown Prosecution Service initially decided not to charge Mr Odey, something subsequently reviewed and overturned by a chief crown prosecutor, despite no “stronger evidence” emerging.
Addressing Mr Odey directly, the judge said: “I find you not guilty of this offence.
“I acquit you, and you will leave this courthouse with your good character intact.”
Earlier, Oxford graduate Mr Odey accused the woman of “exaggerating, massively” her account of what happened.
Mr Odey, who was 39 at the time, was accused of putting his hand down her shirt to touch her breast and putting his hand up her skirt.
Giving evidence in his defence, he said he propositioned the woman, then in her mid-20s, after she inquired where “this is going to end”, by replying: “If you’re lucky, it might end up in the bed.”
He denied indecent assault, and said the allegation against him was “a horrible thing, a horrible slur”.
The two-and-a-half-day trial heard the woman sent an email to Mr Odey in 2013 about the incident, in which she referred to him as a “sleazy, deceitful man who likes to prey on the innocence of young women”.
But she admitted lying that she had instructed law firm Mishcon de Reya in a second email to him, after she had gone to the police in October 2017.
Mr Odey said it was only then that he told his wife, Nichola Pease, who is also a hedge fund manager and has supported him throughout the trial, about the incident.
In 2008, Mr Odey earned £28 million after successfully predicting the credit crunch, and backed a no-deal Brexit, but denied he was doing so in order to profit from a fall in the value of British companies.
The vocal Brexit backer, who is worth about £800 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, was briefly married to media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s eldest daughter Prudence in the mid-1980s, and has courted controversy over the course of his career through his investment strategies.
Last November he stepped down as chief executive of Odey Asset Management, the company he founded in 1991, saying he would focus on managing his own funds.