Tyne & Wear

Longhorsley vicar 'drunkenly groped student on plane'

Peter McConnell entering court
Image caption Peter McConnell moved to sit next to the student, the court was told

A drunk vicar groped a student during a transatlantic flight, a court has heard.

The Reverend Peter McConnell had been drinking heavily and engaged him in a conversation about strip clubs, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

The American student said he later woke up to find the vicar, of Longhorsley, Northumberland, touching his groin.

Mr McConnell, 64, denies sexually assaulting the man on the flight from Philadelphia to Heathrow in March 2017.

The jury heard he had moved to sit in an empty seat next to the student, because a child behind him kept kicking his own. Mr McConnell then explained to him that he had been visiting the United States with his godson.

'Blamed alcohol'

After saying he had visited a strip club, he then asked the student if he had ever been to one, the jury was told.

Giving evidence, the student, who cannot be named, said Mr McConnell discussed a sex act and repeatedly asked him: "Are you mischievous?"

Towards the end of the flight the student became tired and Mr McConnell covered him with a blanket, the court heard. It is then claimed that the vicar sexually assaulted him under the blanket after he fell asleep.

Mr McConnell blamed alcohol for his actions and asked him for forgiveness, the student told the court. The student later complained to the Church of England after taking Mr McConnell's contact details and the police became involved.

The complainant said he reported it because the vicar had told him he worked with children and he was worried about their safety.

When interviewed by police the vicar denied being drunk on the British Airways flight and said the sexual assault had not happened.

The trial continues.

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