A MAN followed dog walkers around a South Oxfordshire beauty spot before pushing a woman into stinging nettles and climbing on top of her, a court has heard.

The prosecution say that man is Robert Newman, who appeared in the dock of Oxford Crown Court yesterday dressed in a blue jumper for his trial.

The 33-year-old, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, denies assault by beating and another count of assault with intent to commit a sexual offence.

It comes after a woman was ‘attacked’ at Hurst Water Meadow in Dorchester, near Wallingford, on August 3.

Speaking on behalf of the Crown, Ian Hope said the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, saw a man on the bridge to the meadow acting ‘a little oddly’.

The bridge leads to some ‘kissing gates’ which then open onto the park that has three tracks going left, right and down the middle.

She walked with her dog down the path to the right, away from the man, but when she turned back he was ‘following her’ and walking ‘quite quickly’.

Mr Hope said: "She stopped on the path so he could walk past her, in a Covid-compliant way.

“But within a moment he was next to her and then he pushed her and bent over her and tried to climb on her.

“She screamed and shouted, kicked and punched him. She remembers him saying ‘shhh’ and ‘be quiet’.”

In a recorded interview played to the jury, she said she told him strongly to leave, but he said ‘shh, shh be quiet’, ‘like he was speaking to a child’.

She said: “I ran back to the gate and up the road and I saw some people and I was shouting 'help, help'. I said 'a man’s just attacked me and he’s wearing a burgundy top'.

“My legs were kicking him and my hands were hitting him and he was crouching over me on his foot or knees. I was shouting as loudly as I possibly could have. I remember just thinking, ‘I’ve got to get up’.”

Only half an hour before, another woman said she had been left ‘shaking like a leaf’ after a man wearing similar clothes ‘followed her’ around the park.

She had also taken the pathway leading right around the river and it was only when her dog started barking that she turned around and saw him behind her.

In court yesterday, she said it had been a ‘beautiful, glorious summers day’ when she said ‘good morning’ to the man on the bridge who just ‘grunted’ back.

She said she was ‘uncomfortable and unnerved’ at the distance that he was walking behind her, so she sat down to let him pass, took a picture of him and backtracked in the other direction.

It was only when she bumped into some neighbours on the central path and told them that she was worried that she saw him for the second time.

She told the court: “I noticed him because he was suddenly behind me again which he shouldn’t have been because I went back in the other direction. Unless he turned around deliberately, he would not have ended up on my path. To me, it was very obvious he was following me.”

When she got home, she was ‘very shaken’ and heard a police helicopter circling the skies prompting her to phone 999 and tell them what had happened.

But defending Newman, Gordana Turudija-Austin said: “You simply assumed he was following you because of the way he looked and you did not feel that he was somebody who belonged in the area. You assumed he was following you.”

She said that he had gone to Dorchester-on-Thames to meet a friend but, because of personal reasons, had arrived ‘much earlier’ so he walked around and ‘does not recall’ following anybody.

Recorder David Brock, sitting as judge in the trial, said: “So he’s not admitting it, but he’s not denying it.”

In an outline of the defence case, she added that he ‘strongly denies’ any attempt of sexual assault and cannot remember bumping into the victim but cannot say that she didn’t fall over.

Mr Hope said that testing from the victim’s pink jumper revealed DNA from Newman which was one billion times more likely to be his than anybody else.

He said: “We know that he was deliberately following women and not men.

“This was not an attempt to rob or steal from her. There were no hands going in pockets, no money was stolen and this is not an area where people will be carrying a lot of money. He was intending to commit a sexual offence.”

A jury of four women and eight men were asked if they knew the defendant, a list of witnesses or if they knew any writers of local press who might have reported on the story at the time.

Mr Newman denies the charges and the trial continues.

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