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Octopus: The allegations against Crispin Odey

Octopus: The allegations against Crispin Odey

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One of Britain’s richest and most powerful men was cleared of sexual assault last year. Four more women have come forward with similar allegations that Crispin Odey, a major donor to the Conservative party, sexually assaulted them. Other women allege that he sexually harassed them at the offices of his Mayfair hedge fund company

Why this story?

Since the beginning of hedge funds, there have been few managers like Crispin Odey. He cultivates the image of an English country squire while making millions of pounds betting the value of insurers would rise after the 11 September terror attacks, that the price of British banks would crash after the global financial crisis, and that the markets would collapse after Brexit. He has donated £800,000 to pro-Leave groups in the referendum, and more money to the Conservatives, UKIP, his Evangelical Christian church, and politicians like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Kwasi Kwarteng.

For more than two decades, Odey, who is 63 years old and one of Britain’s richest men, has been trailed by rumours of inappropriate behaviour towards women. Last year, he was cleared of sexually assaulting a woman in 1998. A few weeks after he was found not guilty of the assault, the Sunday Times and Bloomberg reported new allegations of, respectively, sexual assault and harassment, which Odey strenuously denied. Until now, too few women were willing to speak up about their own experiences to meet the demands of a full investigative report. 

In the course of a two-month investigation, I have documented the stories of five women who allege Crispin Odey sexually assaulted them. The women do not know each other. They live in different places and work in different fields. Their accounts span 1998 to 2021. Yet it is remarkable how much their allegations, which Odey says contain “falsehoods” and “inaccuracies,” overlap. I have also heard a number of accounts of behaviour which could amount to sexual harassment of his employees. This is the story of one of Britain’s richest and most powerful men, the serious allegations against him, and the issues around reporting sexual assault and harassment. Paul Caruana Galizia, reporter

Transcript

Paul Caruana Galizia, narrating: On 11 March 2021 a three-day trial came to an end at Westminster Magistrates Court. In the dock, charged with indecent assault, had been Crispin Odey. He’s high profile in this world, a real titan of the hedge fund industry. He’s one of Britain’s richest men and he’s well enough known outside the world of finance that there was at least one reporter in court for the verdict.

The allegation was that he’d assaulted a woman nearly a quarter of a century earlier in 1998 when she was 26 and working at an investment bank in London. At the time, Crispin Odey was a client of the bank. He was 39 and already managing vast sums of money.

He and the woman ended up at Crispin Odey’s house in Chelsea. When they were there, the court heard Crispin Odey ordered a Chinese takeaway, had a shower, and changed out of his suit into a robe. Then the prosecution alleged he assaulted the woman in his kitchen. According to her evidence, he lunged at her and was all over her like an octopus. She felt his hands scrambling over her, on her breasts, down her shirt, on her back, up her skirt. A general attempt, she said, “to get involved with my body.” She said that she was then forced to wrestle him off and run out the door.

Giving evidence in his defence, Crispin Odey told the court that things unfolded differently. “We were talking away,” he said, “and she suddenly said to me, “Why are you being so nice to me and where do you think this is all going to end?’” 

Crispin Odey continued, “I’m ashamed to say, well, if I’m lucky, it might end in bed.” He added, “She seemed very keen. I probably misread the signals a bit.” He told the court that she immediately became very angry. “Obviously, it was the last thing she had expected me to say. I totally misunderstood her question and she got up and I tried to apologise and we walked in silence downstairs to the door and I let her out.” He said the woman was exaggerating massively what had happened.

Crispin Odey’s lawyer asked him whether he’d have taken the opportunity to sleep with the woman that night had the chance arisen. “I might have,” he replied. “I don’t know. It didn’t happen.”

Crispin Odey described the allegation that he’d assaulted the woman as a horrible slur with great shame. It had caused an enormous strain on his marriage and was deeply embarrassing. “I am an innocent man,” he said. His wife, who at the time of the alleged assault, was pregnant with their third child, was with him in court. So was the Evangelical Christian leader and old friend, John Mumford.

Crispin Odey’s lawyer criticised the woman for what he said was a natural tendency to embellish and exaggerate, which he said made her look like an unreliable historian. He highlighted problems with her evidence. She didn’t remember what time of day the alleged assault took place, what age Crispin Odey was at the time, and what words were spoken at his house.

After two and a half days of evidence, the court broke for lunch and half an hour later, the judge Nicholas Rimmer delivered his verdict. In his summary, he said of the woman that “despite the strength of her emotion and tears, her credibility has been thrown into question and her evidence is riddled with troubling inconsistencies.” He concluded that these inconsistencies cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.

Turning to Crispin Odey he said: “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.” And he added some further considerations which weighed in Crispin Odey’s favour and against the woman. “I find troubling her obvious preoccupation with the press, with your money and her apparent desire for publicity of her complaint.”

The judge found Crispin Odey not guilty of the indecent assault judge. He ended by saying, “You will leave this courthouse with your good character intact.” Before he did that, Crispin Odey shook hands with his lawyer, mopped his brow with a handkerchief and said, “The relief. The relief is awful. Thank you. There were just too many inconsistencies.”

I spent some time understanding that court case for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s because over the past two months I have documented the stories of four other women who alleged Crispin Odey sexually assaulted them. So it has to give me pause for thought to remember that when similar allegations were tested in front of a judge, he found in Crispin Odey’s favour. In those circumstances, how do I square the court’s judgement, not all that long ago, with my job as a journalist to investigate and report other allegations that seemed to overlap?

The second reason I’ve dwelled on the trial is that it gave me the opportunity to reflect what Crispin Odey said when he was confronted with a charge that he’d indecently assaulted someone. As I’ll explain later, I’ve wanted to speak to Crispin Odey for this podcast to get his version of events just as the court did, but he hasn’t wanted to talk to me. What he said in court about the misunderstanding he said happened back in 1998 is the best insight I can get into how he squared his view of an encounter at his home in Chelsea with a woman who’d seen it very differently.

I’m Paul Caruana Galizia and in this episode of the Slow Newscast from Tortoise, ‘Octopus: The allegations against Crispin Odey’, the story of one of Britain’s richest and most powerful men and the serious allegations against him.

***

When I started reporting this story, I was really struck by those words of the judge: “You will leave this courthouse with your good character intact.” 

They were so at odds with what people were claiming to me about their own experiences of Crispin Odey:

“They literally warned: ‘Don’t be alone with him.’”

“I was totally floored. It came out of the blue.”

“He just lunged at me. Suddenly he was physically right over me. 

“He leaned over and he put both hands on both breasts…”

“He was groping everywhere and his tongue…”

“… and sort of, kind of, attacking me.”

Paul, narrating: When you set about investigating a story like this, you find yourself questioning what you’re doing all the way through. You wonder whether it would ever be possible to establish exactly what happened when only two people were in a room together. You ask yourself whether you’ve done all you can to hear each side of the story and whether you’ve gone the extra mile to gather all the information that could matter. And you have to remind yourself throughout that in the one case that reached court, the woman was not believed. 

At the same time, you feel you can’t ignore what you’re told, that when different people who don’t know each other make similar allegations, you should pay attention. Allegations like this typically only make the news when they’re about celebrities or politicians rather than people in positions of power in finance and business.

Obviously, a reporter can’t and shouldn’t be judge and jury, but it seems to me a journalist should at least investigate. When I started looking into the allegations, some people I spoke to said Crispin Odey’s behaviour with women was just old-fashioned, not something that crossed the line into legal wrongdoing. Others talked to me about what they described as his unwanted advances.

I found it helpful to look up a few definitions:

  • Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, whether verbal or physical, intended or not. 
  • Sexual assault is defined as an act of physical, psychological, and emotional violation inflicted on someone without their consent. It doesn’t necessarily involve violence, but it can cause severe distress, which is why the police treat it as seriously as violent physical attacks.

As with any story you want to hear from the person who’s at the centre of it. I first approached Crispin Odey requesting an interview on 21 November. I gave him a list of areas I’d like to ask him about including the allegations of sexual assault and harassment. I sent the request by email and to his personal number on WhatsApp, which indicated that he had received and read my message, but he didn’t reply. I then emailed Crispin Odey and the chief executive of his company, Odey Asset Management, on 25 November with a detailed list of the allegations so they’d have the opportunity to respond to my reporting.

Just before our deadline, I received two emails. The first was from Odey Asset Management’s chief executive, Peter Martin. It read:

“The executive committee of Odey Asset Management is independent to Crispin Odey and treats all allegations extremely seriously. Odey Asset Management has robust policies and procedures and staff wellbeing is central to the culture of our business. Due to confidentiality and privacy issues, it would be inappropriate to respond to your claims.”

Paul, narrating: The second was from Crispin Odey via his personal assistant. It said that my email to him:

“Contains very many falsehoods and inaccuracies. There is clearly nothing to be gained by my engaging with you on any level by way of a response as you are clearly not interested in what I have to say and are paying lip service to your own responsibilities. It is of note that you admit that you have already come to conclusions based on findings and research. This all points to a preordained agenda and the approach outlined by you is neither fair nor responsible journalism. If you proceed regardless, then you will be aware of the possible consequences.”

Paul, narrating: But I do really want to hear his side of the story. I reply to this email again requesting an interview with him. I make it clear that I haven’t reached any conclusions. That’s not my role. I want to listen to his version of events. He doesn’t respond.

Crispin Odey first made the news as a lanky, bespectacled, whizz-kid who took big risks with clients’ money and paid himself enormous bonuses. And then he made a series of trades that highlighted how he mixed his financial interests with his political beliefs. Most famously among them was Brexit. Crispin Odey publicly talked up the economic benefits of leaving the EU. Privately, he was betting that the value of British companies and the pound would collapse in the event of a Leave vote. He had donated £800,000 to Leave groups and Ukip in the runup to the referendum. He’s also donated around £300,000 to the Conservative party over the past 15 years.

Separately, he gave £10,000 to Boris Johnson for his leadership campaign, and since 2010, he’s given almost £30,000 to Jacob Rees-Mogg, who once worked with him.

Crispin Odey has always denied profiting from his access to politicians and his social connections. He told the Financial Times that “There’s a mad idea that one’s behind every twist and turn. All I can do is catch the wind now and again.” But an old friend of his told me, “Crispin loves people. When we speak, he tells me he’s having dinner with so and so or meeting this minister or that minister.” And it’s his relationship with another former employee that attracted attention.

Kwasi Kwarteng worked for Crispin Odey before he became an MP in 2010. He continued to work as a consultant for Crispin Odey’s company after he’d been elected. They remained close enough so that in July this year Crispin Odey invited Kwasi Kwarteng, then business secretary, to his Chelsea home for a private lunch that he cooked. This was during the Tori leadership race when Kwasi Kwarteng was being mentioned for one of the top jobs in government if Liz Truss won.

Crispin Odey told the Times, “They never discussed anything but the usual gossip of politics.” He added that at the time, “Kwasi Kwarteng wasn’t optimistic about getting a major job in government.” But a few weeks after that lunch Liz Truss became prime minister and appointed Kwasi Kwarteng as her chancellor.

Over the summer they drew up plans for their tax cuts and public borrowing. After Kwasi Kwarteng announced those plans in his September mini-budget, the stock market and the pound crashed, with investors fearing the UK was on a ruinous fiscal path. But Crispin Odey’s funds soared because he had bet that the pound would fall. Then in an attempt to halt the crash, Kwasi Kwarteng reversed the cut to the top rate of income tax. The pound recovered some of its losses and Crispin Odey’s funds soared again because by then he had reversed his position on the pound and had bet that it would rise. His fund strategy with its long-running bets against UK government bonds and the pound, and which had about £800 million in it in August, returned 25 per cent the following month. His performance this year reverses six years of poor returns. In fact, 2022 is shaping up to be his best year yet. His fund is up by 193 per cent.

Someone who’s lunched with him for many years says that Crispin Odey is, “A man who, whatever the temperature, sweats.” He has changed since his lanky whizz-kid days and has developed what an old school friend calls “a lot of prosperity around his middle.” A ruddy faced ​​bon viveur, Crispin Odey cultivates the image of an old school investor and a country squire.

“You might have been up all night, but I’m feeling fresh as a daisy…

“Well, I think at that point I really would be tasting. I would be drinking heavily, I think, actually.”

Crispin Odey

Paul, narrating: He enjoys grouse shooting and salmon fishing. In interviews, he sometimes refers to his family “seat” in Yorkshire. This is Hotham Hall, a 4,000-acre estate. His mother inherited it from her brother in the 1970s. Dick Odey, Crispin’s father, worked for a tannery business but made the wrong bets just as the leather market globalised. He lost his job and lived on handouts from his own father for the rest of his life. This was George Odey. He was much more successful in the tannery business than his son. He became a Tory MP and retired rich.

Crispin Odey would call his father a “wastrel” and his grandfather a “bully”. He was sent to school at Harrow where he excelled academically before going on to study economics and history at Christchurch College, Oxford.

George Odey wanted his grandson to become a barrister. Crispin Odey completed his law course in 1983, but he hated law. He felt like a poor lawyer and saw that a stockbroker friend was making much more money than he was. “Crispin,” the friend told him, “you could do this standing on your head.”

Crispin Odey rebelled against his grandfather and joined a fund management company. George Odey was not happy. Meanwhile, to keep his parents financially afloat, Crispin Odey sold Hotham Hall in 1984. The family trustees told him to see it as a blessing, which would force him to seek his own fortune.

A year later in 1985, he joined one of the great city institutions, Barings. The stock market was rising and he made a lot of money. In that same year he married Prudence Murdoch, Rupert’s elder’s daughter and his grandfather died.

Crispin Odey learned that he had been written out of the will. George Odey left him nothing except an empty suitcase that fell apart when he tried to use it – and so too did Crispin Odey’s marriage.

A year after their wedding, Prudence Murdoch told friends that she couldn’t bear to be with Crispin Odey any longer. He was, she told them, “too eccentric.” He’d collect people from bus stops and train stations to attend evangelical prayer groups. They got divorced.

By 1991, he had done well enough at Barings to go it alone. He raised about a hundred million pounds to start his own hedge fund company, Odey Asset Management. It was a bumpy start. His fund returned 60 per cent in 1993, a performance he wouldn’t beat for almost three decades. But the following year it almost collapsed when the US Federal Reserve unexpectedly raised interest rates. He climbed his way back, year by year, so that by the late 1990s he was seen as a star manager again and was making millions of pounds.

“One of the fun things in my life is that one gets more patient as one gets older and therefore actually until something happens, I don’t make the changes. I mean, my portfolio is very much… it’s an understanding of what is happening now and how is that refracted through a stock market and always looking ahead to say what could happen and what would I own then, and that’s… the pleasure is it’s always changing.”

Crispin Odey

Paul, narrating: Then the first of the trades that made him famous, he correctly predicted the value of insurers would rise after the September 11 terror attacks. He summarised his investment philosophy a few months later as: “buy wives and short mistresses”. Seven years later, ahead of the 2008 global financial crisis, he bet the value of British banks would fall. His firm made £55 million. His share was £28 million.

Crispin Odey next tried to make a success out of Brexit. Ahead of which he purchased private polling data that indicated a leave victory shortly before the vote. He bet the stock market and pound would collapse and his funds made £220 million overnight.

“There’s that Italian expression, ‘Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca’ – the morning has gold in its mouth. And never has one felt so much that idea as this morning, really… I still think tomorrow they’re going to take it all away from me.”

Crispin Odey

Paul, narrating: The markets did. They unexpectedly rebounded after the initial turmoil, wiping out Crispin Odey’s gains and sending him back into the wilderness for the next six years.

Crispin Odey gave that interview at one of the 18th-century townhouses in Mayfair, which is home to the offices of Odey Asset Management. Inside there are dark wooden tables, sideboards and chairs from the same period, heavy curtains and oil paintings of rural idylls. Fund managers say that the reception desk at Odey Asset Management put boxes of shotgun cartridges out on Fridays so that the firm’s senior staff could pick some up on their way to their shooting weekends.

Crispin Odey hired the sons of barons and earls plus the odd marquist, viscount and a Habsburg to work for him. Few women held senior positions in his company. I have spoken to a number of women who work there and I have also spoken to women who know him socially. Some of those women described him as charming and had no bad experiences with him, but others painted a very different picture. All the women I’ve spoken to asked not to be named. One of them has allowed us to use her real voice. The others will be voiced by actors reading their words.

“I knew he was taking some of the other girls out for lunch, other receptionists.”

Paul, narrating: Recently, this woman worked as a receptionist at Odey Asset Management. She took the job on a temporary basis because it was much better paid than any other jobs she had done and because she hoped it might lead to a career in finance. At a City event, she met some people who knew Crispin Odey.

“They just started hinting about his behaviour. So at this point, nothing had happened. He’d just been quite charming, a little bit inappropriate, just a bit too much. It was just like that creepy old man, but not, like, dangerous. And they just said, ‘Oh, I bet he really likes you.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ And they just kept making these hints and jokes about his behaviour. They all knew what he was like. Oh, these were guys way older than me. They were in their 40s and 50s and had been in the industry a long time, and they basically told me what it was like, but with humour. You know, it’s like a joke, like a massive joke.”

Paul, narrating: At this stage, she was still prepared to see things as maybe not funny, but benign. Crispin Odey had a knack of finding her when she was alone at the front desk and everyone else was busy in their offices. He’d go down and chat to her.

“He was showing interest in me and talking about helping to get me a job and to introduce me to people or maybe get me a role at Odey. And I suddenly felt like, ‘Oh, this is really, really nice.’ And he would ask a lot about me, like, ‘What did my family do? Where was I from?’”

Paul, narrating: Looking back, she felt that he may have been…

“… trying to get a sense of: was I somebody? Did I have money? And am I somebody that he could prey on, essentially, without worrying about it too much?”

Paul, narrating: Because within the first week of her time at Odey Asset Management, things began to take a different turn.

“It got to a point where I was on the phone and he would come down and start massaging my shoulders and start asking me really inappropriate things. So he’d be, ‘Oh, is your boyfriend into foreplay?’ Things like that. Just really, really gross. And I would try and get away and he’d just pull me back.

“At one point I was in my chair, he’d be behind me. I was on the phone, so I was a bit trapped, and then I sat forward trying to get away from him. He just grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back. It was just really not particularly nice.

“Then I told my superior about it and I said, ‘He’s kind of been massaging my shoulders. I’m not really sure I’d want him to do that.’ And she was like, ‘Oh, he does that to everyone. He does it all the time.’

“It got to a point where I would hide in the office if he was coming in. If there were other people there, I knew I was safe. Sometimes they’d bring in another temp. And there were a couple of girls I literally warned, ‘Don’t be alone with him. You’ll be fine because you are new, but I’m going to hide in this cupboard because I don’t want to have to deal with him.’ So I’d see him coming in through the front door and I would literally just leg it to try and get away from him.”

Paul, narrating: The woman kept a written record of her time at Odey Asset Management. She shared some of it with me:

  • Friday 14th – “Returned from boozy lunch and compliments my outfit, jeans, white shirt, blazer. Keeps looking at my chest, asks me if I have any more outfits to show off. I say, ‘I can’t afford new outfits.’ He asks if I will sell my body to pay for new clothes. He starts rubbing my shoulders in middle of a call. Massages shoulders and neck. I say, ‘Thanks. That’s fine now.’ He keeps going and won’t stop and just asks whether my boyfriend massages me. Asks if my boyfriend is a kiwi because kiwis aren’t into foreplay. I sit as far forward in my chair as possible and he grabs my shoulders and pulls me backwards into him.”
  • Wednesday 26th – “Crispin returns from lunch, sits down in the reception and asks me what I’m wearing today. He asks me to stand up and twirl around so he can see. I remain seated.”
  • Friday 28th – “Crispin asks me to try on a skirt he bought for his daughter to check the size. Asks if I want to change in the meeting room. I say, “No thank you,” and go downstairs to the lady’s bathroom. Skirt is long, pink and quite sheer. He tries to take a picture of me in it to send it to me. I decline and return downstairs. As I leave, he says it ‘looks nice from the back too’.”

Paul, narrating: The woman left Odey Asset Management within a few months. Not long after she got an email from the recruitment agency that had placed her at Odey Asset Management. It read:

“Odey Asset Management is taking the time to reevaluate all of their internal processes. As part of this, they’ve decided to complete a culture and conduct survey. Please keep this strictly confidential.”

Paul, narrating: Odey Asset Management had commissioned Simmons & Simmons, a leading city law firm, to do the survey, which among other things asks recipients whether they’d feel comfortable reporting inappropriate sexual conduct.

She called the recruitment agency directly and advised them not to continue sending young women there. The recruitment agency has told me that it no longer works with Odey Asset Management, but it did not say why. I don’t know what triggered the Simmons & Simmons review as Odey Asset Management didn’t get back to me on it. It may or may not have been triggered by another former receptionist who reportedly told the company’s HR department about Crispin Odey’s inappropriate behaviour towards her.

This may be something for the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate. The City regulator treats sexual harassment as misconduct, which it can punish through fines, suspensions, and prohibitions. The FCA does not disclose who it’s investigating, and its inquiries can take years to conclude.

For me, the most striking entry in the woman’s written record about her time at Odey Asset Management is from her first week there.

“Comes back from boozy lunch and corners me in the corridor. 

Him: ‘I could attack you now.’ 

Me: ‘Please don’t.’ 

Him: ‘You could sue me for that.’

Paul, narrating: Given Crispin Odey has not engaged with the substance of our reporting, it’s worth pointing out that when the Sunday Times and Bloomberg reported allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Crispin Odey, he strenuously denied them. The women in this podcast who alleged Crispin Odey assaulted them, haven’t spoken to one another. They live in different places. They work in different fields. They are different ages. Their allegations of assault span 1998 to 2021. Yet it is remarkable how the details of their accounts, which Crispin Odey says contain inaccuracies and falsehoods, overlap.

You’ll now hear those accounts voiced by actors.

“So I went to drinks and I met Crispin and I was working for someone who he knew. I was in a bit of a quandary about the next moves at work. So he said, ‘Come and chat to me.’ And because it was a friend’s drinks and he was great friends with lots of friends I knew, I thought that would be great because he knew my employer.”

“It was 2004. I was about 24, 25 years old. I’d been working for a few years in finance in London and I was introduced to him, to Crispin, at a wedding. He told me something like, ‘You can’t work where you are working. Come to me. You must come for an interview.’”

“I don’t really remember whether the meeting was in the morning or in the afternoon, but I remember exactly where it was. It was in this upstairs office at Odey Asset Management, which is a very fancy room with a very long table in it. There was some kind of square table and the walls covered with paintings and woodwork, this kind of old-fashioned look, you know the sort.”

“And so we went upstairs and we had a drink and then he got a phone call and one of his mates happened to be passing. So we ended up having a really nice dinner, all three of us. We chatted a bit over the next few months about work on the phone and stuff and I didn’t think anything about it.

“And then in the lead up to Christmas, I was in another work quandary and it was kind of getting quite bad. Crispin said, “Come and have dinner. Let’s talk about it. I can help you.” So we went to a restaurant in Belgravia. This was now in early December. And it was a really well lit restaurant. It was early. I always drove at that time because where I worked was about an hour out of London and so I didn’t drink. There were quite a few people around and the table was in the middle of the room and I felt very safe because why wouldn’t I?”

“As it was a social setting, I felt okay about it. But then he called me on my work line, which was a bit weird. He said, ‘Come for drinks at my house in Chelsea,’ on a Friday night. It felt odd.

“Anyway, I was wearing a black suit with trousers. I remember this very vividly and very formal short hair. And he was sitting on the other side of the table and then he started to get up and walk around and he was talking about all kinds of companies and gesticulating and giving me all his ideas. It was quite a fancy thing. He had a lot of ideas and thoughts.

And we started talking through all my issues at work. And at some stage not that far into dinner, he leaned over and he put both hands on both breasts, I think, over my shirt. And I was completely kind of taken aback.”

“We went back downstairs and he just lunged at me. He was groping everywhere and his tongue…”

“And then for some reason suddenly he was physically right over me and sort of, kind of attacking me, physically over someone who is sitting down and invading every single aspect of space. And sort of drumming his fingers on my chest and on my thighs and seemingly trying to kiss me I guess in some unspecified, disgusting way.”

“I was totally floored. It came out of the blue. It took me a moment or two to register and in order to sort of fend him off… I did… I kind of… Rather than do what I should have done, which is to just get up and leave, I sort of tried to make it okay in the way that a woman does often in that situation. So I tried to kind of talk my way out of it. I was like, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ And he then lunged again and tried to sort of stuck his tongue into my mouth, at which point I kind of really went back and slapped him away.”

“I whacked him and I said, ‘What the fuck do you think is going on?’ And then I noticed he had his knob out. I managed to push him off me and left. I haven’t seen him since then.”

“It couldn’t have lasted more than 15 seconds because I kept pushing him away and so on and so forth. Or maybe it was longer. I can’t really remember. But it seems to me like it lasted forever. It was unforgettable.”

“And then I couldn’t really be polite, but I didn’t, again, do what I should have done, which was to leave. I said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing it?’ And that led to a conversation. I said, ‘What would happen if your wife–’ as I knew his wife, ‘What would happen if Nichola saw you?’ And it went on for quite a while, this kind of thing about his sex life essentially.”

“Subsequently, I was told that he drank a huge amount at lunch and therefore he was rarely sober. I realised that I was getting some kind of altered version, but it was completely random.”

“Anyway, he didn’t assault me again and I got out of there. And at the end of the dinner I realised that there were two empty bottles of wine on the table. So I hadn’t actually realised he had actually been very drunk.”

“There was no lead up, absolutely no lead up. You can’t go from literally talking about a company to being aggressed by a man who is literally three times my size. I don’t know how fat he is, but I mean, he’s enormous. It’s this huge bulk.”

“Anyway, so quite suddenly he realised that I wasn’t responding in any kind of positive way or he’d obviously made a mistake or he had just had enough of whatever it was that he needed and he left the meeting room and I never saw him again. He just walked out of the meeting room.”

“I was really shaken because the mutual friend who had introduced us at the party was a really good friend of mine and a really good friend of his. And so when I got home, I started to shake and cry. I felt really discombobulated and was just trying to take it all in, I suppose, because I had thought that he was a bit of a bumbling older sort of parental friend type. It came so out of the blue. It wasn’t so much the violation of the body, it was just the shock of having had this four-month friendship that that’s what he was actually after. And I hadn’t seen it.”

“I was frightened. I wasn’t frightened out of my wits because all this jabbing and so on. I don’t know. It didn’t feel like I was going to get raped. I felt that something was being stolen from me, something was being taken away from me very deliberately to humiliate me. And that’s exactly how it’s always felt. It’s always felt you’re a piece of meat. It doesn’t matter that you started a successful business. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your name is, you were just a piece of meat sitting in a chair and I could do this. Yes, that’s all it was.”

“When I told people about it, I realised it was like a bad secret. I hadn’t appreciated that it was known – his behaviour.”

“And I rang this mutual friend and I think the more shocking thing was the mutual friend, he said, ‘Oh dear, I was afraid he was going to do that.’”

Paul, narrating: The last woman who you heard from told a number of friends about the incident, wrote a diary entry about it and wrote to Crispin Odey. Her boss advised her to write to him detailing what he had done to her and how he made her feel. She did. And she got a reply back to her card in which he wrote, “I am really sorry. It didn’t feel like that kind of night and I certainly did not want to embarrass you. I have never wanted anything but the best for you. Is it unfair to feel so confused by your card? Lots of love, Crispin.”

“That was the last I saw or heard of him until I saw in 2020 that a woman was accusing him of assault and her account was so similar to mine. When this woman then took her case to court, I was actually initially excited. I thought, ‘This is it. This is like the snowball that we need,’ and I really wanted to sort of join forces because I didn’t really want to do it on my own. So I called the Met and I lodged my story and I said, ‘Look, there’s this case, it’s coming up in’– I think this was in the summer 2020 maybe, and it was coming up in the spring next year or something. And I said, ‘I would like to be a witness. I don’t want to lodge my own court case or whatever the legal term is, but I want to be a witness. And I’m prepared to be a witness and I’m prepared to be named in court. And I would like to tell my story in support of this woman, basically to prove bad character.’ I spoke to three people in total.”

Paul, narrating: She has shared her email exchanges with the Metropolitan Police with me.

“The first person said, ‘This will have to be investigated and if it’s investigated, you’ll have to open your own case.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to open my own case. I want to be a part of this case.’”

Paul, narrating: Then she read a press report about the court proceedings which had begun. She felt incensed that this one woman was left alone.

“And so I rang again and in that case I emailed the CPS. I found the name of her barrister and I found his email at the CPS and I emailed him. And I said, ‘Look, I’ve been talking to the Met. I’ve been told that I can’t do anything, but I’m just letting you know that the precise same thing happened to me, and if that’s useful, I would love to chat to you.’

“After that, a third woman from the Met calls, but this was now maybe three days before the case was in court. And she said: ‘This is all very unfortunate. We might have been able to use your account, but now it’s too late.’

“And then when he went to court, he had a statement to back up his good character, but I wasn’t permitted to give a statement to back up his bad character. And then this poor woman got completely decimated.”

Paul, narrating: But to hear that woman now you wouldn’t necessarily think she had been decimated.

“After the court case, I did feel that I achieved what I wanted for myself. Then I had this feeling of just standing up for myself. And I think other people may not be able to see that from the outside. But for me it was just the sense of bringing this into the light, to say, ‘I won’t be walked over. I just won’t be treated this way.’ And so there is an enormous sense of peace. It’s just like standing up to a massive bully. I just felt this incredible sense of peace and I really did feel a kind of sense of empowerment, actually.”

Paul, narrating: The judge in this case said the woman who gave evidence against Crispin Odey had a desire for publicity, an interest in his wealth and a vivid imagination. She always accepted that the case would be hard to prove. In a letter she wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service before the trial, she said that the chance to be heard would be a victory in itself. This is her in her own voice.

“Now, I may have taken a couple of blows on the way, but you just feel this enormous sense of self worth and that’s really worth a lot. Sorry…”

“… I just think I do feel very glad for doing it. I don’t regret it in any way.”

Paul, narrating: Every account of alleged sexual assault that I have documented dates from after this woman’s experience in 1998. Odey denied it and it’s the only one that’s ever been tested in court, and the judge clearly felt it didn’t meet the standard of proof needed for a criminal conviction, that there was reasonable doubt about the allegation. 

But the most unsettling allegation is the fifth one, which states from after the judge’s finding and which I haven’t talked about yet. It’s upsetting because of its forceful nature. The woman concerned, like the other woman, is well-connected. She confided in a mutual friend of hers and Crispin Odey’s that she had been assaulted by him at a private social event.

All I can say in order to protect her identity is that the allegation is similar in many respects to the others. Although this alleged assault includes one of the woman’s hands being forced onto his hard penis before she was able to free herself from his clutches. Again, we understand that this allegation dates from late 2021. That’s just months after Crispin Odey’s acquittal for assault.

The seriousness of that last allegation and how recent it is, is part of the answer to the question I asked myself at the beginning of this podcast: What are the rights and wrongs of reporting on everything I’ve heard when Crispin Odey walked from court, told that his reputation was intact not so long ago?

The argument, of course, is that for a newsroom like ours not to report it, backed up as it is by the accounts of all the other women I’ve spoken to, would have the potential to leave other women open to the risk of assault, a general failure to take seriously those kinds of allegations would leave powerful men able to carry on doing whatever they’ve done in the past.

We don’t know how Crispin Odey himself would respond to the new allegations against him. What we know he said in court only tells us that he believed he was there because of a misunderstanding. He’d surely say his reputation, built over many years and kitemarked by a judge, is a precious thing. To put a dent in it on the basis of incorrect information, as he claims we’re doing, amounts to irresponsible journalism.

When we told him we were making this podcast and the nature of the allegations that would be in it, he threatened us with consequences, unspecified but not hard to imagine.

It’s worth me saying again that the accounts I’ve heard from the women I’ve talked to are, at the same time, independent of each other and consistent. Of course, I can’t use them to suggest that the court got it wrong in Crispin Odey’s case because those allegations weren’t heard there. But the system gets it wrong. It lets down women who come forward to complain they have been sexually abused. 

Prosecution and conviction rates are appallingly low and the public is onto it as a problem. Within that system, the incentives for women who’ve been abused to step forward can feel low to nonexistent, and that’s particularly so if women feel, as the women I’ve talked to do, that it’s possible for a man like Crispin Odey to hold onto a reputation that their testimony suggests he may not deserve.

This story was reported by me, Paul Caruana Galizia. It was produced by Matt Russell. Additional production was by James Wilson. And the sound design was by Sam Mbatha. The editors were Jasper Corbett and Ceri Thomas.

This podcast was updated after publication in the interests of people involved. 

How we got here

We first started talking about Crispin Odey when he was last in the news. In September, the Times reported that he invited Kwarteng, who used to work for him, to his house for a private lunch in July. A few weeks later, Liz Truss became prime minister and appointed Kwarteng as her chancellor. Odey’s fund then profited from the budget decisions the new government made. While Odey’s always denied profiting from his political and social connections, we felt this episode said something about the nexus between big money and high politics, so we started speaking to people who know Odey.

Quite quickly, a different story emerged when, early on, I met a woman who alleged that Odey had assaulted her. She suspected that many more women had the same experience she alleged. Within a few weeks, one allegation became five. Paul Caruana Galizia, reporter


Further reading