Sunderland's Titus Bramble 'assaulted woman in taxi'

Titus Bramble
Image caption Titus Bramble denies all the charges

Sunderland footballer Titus Bramble groped a woman in a club before repeatedly sexually assaulting another in a taxi, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Ipswich-born Mr Bramble denies four counts of sexual assault alleged to have happened in Yarm on 28 September.

Jurors heard the defender, 30, groped a woman and placed another woman's hand on his crotch over his jeans.

The taxi driver was so concerned about the activity in his cab he drove to a police station, the court heard.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said: "It is significant that we have here key witnesses who don't know each other and are both making separate and independent allegations against this defendant's sexual conduct in the early hours of 28 September."

'Smirking at me'

The first complainant was in the Cross Keys bar in Yarm and was standing near the bar at about 01:00 BST when someone squeezed her right buttock, Mr Dodds said.

The footballer denies he was the man who groped the woman, Mr Dodds said.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, the woman told the court she felt a hand grab her bottom and turned round.

"As I turned round I saw him smirking at me. He was very close," she said.

"I felt very uncomfortable."

She said she told a male friend she had been groped and the man pointed out Mr Bramble played for Sunderland.

The woman told the court: "I said 'I don't care what he does - he's not grabbing me like that'."

'Hand on leg'

About 30 minutes later, a woman Mr Bramble knew was helping a friend who felt unwell, the court heard.

He led her into an alleyway and kissed her but after a moment she stopped as she knew he had a girlfriend, Mr Dodds said.

He asked her to go to a Middlesbrough nightclub but she declined, though she agreed to share a taxi with him so she could be dropped off at home, the jury heard.

There followed an argument between the taxi driver and the player about payment, until Mr Bramble handed over £15 and the woman £5 and the prosecution alleged she believed she was still being dropped off at her home.

During the journey Mr Bramble told the woman his relationship was over, the court heard, then he leaned across and put his hand on her leg and moved it up.

Mr Dodds said: "The prosecution say she tells him to stop and moves his hand away."

She again said "no" when Mr Bramble tried to kiss her, the jury heard.

He then took her hand and placed it on his crotch over his jeans.

She told the driver to head towards her home, the jury heard.

'Locked in toilet'

But Mr Bramble told the driver to go to his home. He then grabbed the woman's hand and again placed it over the crotch of his jeans.

Mr Dodds said she pulled her hand away, saying: "This is not right. Stop."

The driver became aware something was wrong and drove to Stockton police station on the pretext there was a problem with the fare, the jury was told.

The driver went into the police station, followed by Mr Bramble and the woman, and asked to speak to an officer away from the footballer, Mr Dodds said.

Meanwhile, the complainant locked herself in a toilet and refused to come out until she was sure the footballer was not there.

He was subsequently arrested and did not reply when the allegations were put to him, Mr Dodds said.

His defence will be that he did not touch the first complainant and that any sexual activity in the taxi was consensual, Mr Dodds said.

The trial, which is expected to last for five days, was adjourned until Tuesday.

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