A man accused of brutally raping a jogger several times during a nine-hour ordeal took to the stand to give evidence in his defence.
Peter Watton, 37, began giving evidence on day three of his trial at Chester Crown Court where he has pleaded not guilty to the false imprisonment, rape and assault of a stranger on the woodland walkway.
Earlier in the week, the jury of nine women and three men heard the alleged victim give a harrowing account of a prolonged abduction which she was convinced would end in her death.
During the nine hours she was held against her will, the woman claimed she was raped a total of eight times, sexually assaulted with objects, and taken to three different secluded locations by her abductor who stuffed a sock in her mouth and tied her hands with shoe laces.
“I thought he was going to whack me over the head, stab me with the knife and throw me in the river. I thought I would be found floating towards Chester. I didn't want to die that way,” she said.
She said she managed to get away as he raped her for the final time, pulling his trousers down around his ankles so he would trip up if he ran after her.
She told how she ran as far as she could towards houses on Berkley Drive in Handbridge where she told a man at the door she had been abducted and raped.
“My legs were burning, I knew if I didn't put 100% into this I was going to die,” she said.
But yesterday, the court heard Watton claimed his alleged victim took him into woodland to have sex.
Surrounded by guards Peter Watton of Lache took to the witness stand and claimed he had met the female jogger while returning from checking out the River Dee for fishing conditions and sheltering under trees from the rain on Duke's Drive on June 14 last year.
Watton said she had started chatting to him about the weather, then the conversation turned to problems in her relationship with her partner.
They shared stories about former relationships and she started crying, talking about an argument with her partner and that she thought he was having an affair with someone from the gym.
Watton claimed she then kissed him, said ‘come on’, grabbed his hand and led him into the bushes.
They had sex in the woods, which he insisted was consensual, but moved to a different location after they “heard voices” and thought people could hear them, he said.
They then spent a period of time looking for her car keys, which he said she had hidden in the ground “because her dog runs off with things” – these keys were never found.
They walked to a more remote location and climbed a fence, before talking and having sex again, he claimed. As they walked and chatted to the hidden place, he saw a dog walker and nodded and said ‘alright’ to him at that time.
“We had sex, not at any point did she say no,” said Watton, in a police interview read out in court conducted after he was on the run for five days.
"Not at any point did she shout out. It is nothing new to have sex in a field.
“I am not a rapist, I do not know why she is saying this. It just happened.”
In the witness stand, Watton said they then headed back towards the first location to look for her car keys and his bike, they couldn’t find it. They parted when he wanted to go home.
“She started going on about her keys and that she needed them. I told her ‘I’m going to walk home’, she started saying what about my fiance, she said what am I going to say to him?
“I said tell him what you want, don’t tell him anything.”
Watton said the woman left in a “huff because of losing her keys,” and denied taking her to near the River Dee, taking drugs, or forcing her to remain with him at any time.
“She said ta ra, good bye and stormed off," he added.
As he gave his evidence Watton claimed he had gone to a house the night before the alleged incident and tried to get steroids.
He said on June 14 he had got up around noon, gone to his ex-wife’s home and had sex. He had then taken his bike down to the River Dee and looked to see if it was the right conditions for fishing.
He said it wasn’t and there was ‘no point in fishing’, he didn’t have equipment on him.
Whilst walking with his bike along Duke’s Drive it started to rain heavily, it was then he stopped to shelter and have a cigarette – it was then he saw the jogger who stopped to talk to him.
“I just thought she was a girl and she was talking and that was it,” he said.
“(When she started crying) I didn’t know what to do. What do you do? She kissed me and I kissed her back.”
Five day manhunt
Whilie police scoured the countryside for Peter Watton he drank vodka and bought chips from a local chippy in an “encampment” at the side of the railway, the jury heard.
During the five day manhunt, Peter Watton’s face appeared in local and national newspapers and was broadcast on TV, but he claims he walked into a Saltney chip shop to buy his tea.
At one point, while he tried to avoid being captured by police, Watton said he returned home to shower and his mother told him to phone (his) solicitor and hand himself in.
Speaking on the witness stand Watton claimed following the sexual activity with the stranger at Duke’s Drive – which Watton insists was instigated by her and was consensual – he went back to his mother’s home in the Lache, drank vodka and watched TV. He slept for a time, he said.
Later, sometime between 11pm and 1am he went back to Duke’s Drive armed with a torch to look for his bike, which he didn’t find, he said.
He then headed home, back along a different route, before seeing the police guarding his mother’s house.
It was then he decided not to return home, but to go on the run.
“I had just got out of prison, I know how easy it is to breach and be sent back, said Watton.
“I thought I was going to be recalled. I panicked.”
Watton walked to River Lane where he camped at the side of the railway line after stealing two sleeping bags from a campsite. He bought chips from a chip shop in Saltney and some beer and vodka from a nearby newsagents.
He stayed there for two days before returning to his mum’s to shower. It was then she told him why the police were looking for him.
“I had a shower and got changed. my mum came home and that’s when I was made aware of what was happening,” he said.
“I didn’t know what to do at first. She told me to phone my solicitor and give myself up. I said ‘no way’ and got out. I put some clothes in my bag and got back to the campsite.”
In agreed evidence the jury heard how Watton was captured following a five-day manhunt across Cheshire after an off-duty special constable spotted him walking on the railway tracks between Chester and Wrexham.
The train had stopped unexpectedly and Special Constable Noel Perry jumped off the train and chased Watton after recognising the wanted man from a photo he had memorised during his city centre duty earlier that day.
During the chase he lost sight of Watton and kept loosing signal on his mobile phone to which he was keeping in contact with the police control room. It took 20 minutes for back-up to arrive.
By that time Watton had vanished out of sight near Lavister in Rossett.
Cheshire police scoured the surrounding fields and gardens of properties in the search for Watton, using police dogs, during which time they discovered an “encampment”, with a fire, under a railway bridge.
He was eventually apprehended by officers from North Wales police after he ran out on to the A483 close to the Rossett junction, after apparently making his get away through gardens at nearby properties.
He would not confirm his identity, but police managed to confirm he was Watton after recognising his distinctive tattoos.
Dog walker spotted 'couple'
A dog walker who spotted jogger and alleged rapist walking during nine hour abduction ‘sensed sadness’ around them, a jury heard.
John Maxwell Gooch was walking his dog along his regular route on Duke's Drive in Chester when he saw the pair walking closely together in a more secluded part of the woodland, on June 14.
He saw the couple shortly after she tried to escape while being moved to a secluded hidey-hole by her ex-con abductor, it was claimed.
Giving evidence on day three of the trial of Peter Watton, of Henley Road, Lache, Mr Gooch described how during his 30 second ‘snapshot’ view of the couple he noticed she was ‘soaking wet’ and had her head bowed down.
Watton stands accused of abducting a lone female jogger as she ran with her dog along the woodland walkway, dragging her into the undergrowth and raping her eight times during the nine hour ordeal.
Mr Gooch spotted the couple at around 5pm and said he sensed a ‘feeling of loss’ around the couple, saying he thought it was strange they were out walking so poorly dressed for the bad weather.
Yesterday (Wednesday), Chester Crown Court heard how the victim was allegedly moved between three secluded areas along the path with her hands tied, he made her walk close and at times hold his hand to make them look like a couple.
She eventually escaped at midnight, running for her life, seven hours after the dog walker spotted her being moved by her alleged rapist, who thought they were a couple who had ‘lost a relative or a baby’.
Mr Gooch told the jury how he saw a 30 second ‘snapshot’ of the pair and said the woman walked with her head bowed.
“It was strange, I stood and watched them, they couldn't see me,” said Mr Gooch.
“It was just a sense of sadness which I felt was coming across. I felt like they had lost a relative or a baby. It didn't look like they were two people out walking.”
Thinking nothing of it he only reported the sighting to the police when he was out walking the route the next morning and a police officer approached him when he stopped to pick some litter, the jury heard.
Watton claims he nodded at the dog walker and said ‘alright’, but Mr Gooch denied that, saying if he saw a walker it wasn't him.
Watton denies abducting and raping the jogger, claiming they had a passionate encounter on the pathway which lasted at most an hour and a half.
He denies using objects to sexual assault her and having a kitchen knife.
The trial continues.
Alleged victim retraced steps for police
The victim was so determined to help catch her alleged abductor she retraced the steps of her horrifying ordeal just hours after running for her life, the jury heard.
Just hours after her escape, the 44-year-old jogger retraced her steps in a bid to catch her attacker.
Chester Crown Court heard how she was so determined to help the police she continued retracing her fateful steps through the woodland despite vomiting repeatedly, shaking and becoming increasingly pale.
Despite concerns of police officer DC Helen Rigley, the alleged victim led police to parts of the woodland where she claimed to have been raped, guiding a team of forensics, weapons officers and uniformed police along the path.
DC Rigley described how the woman appeared distressed and shaken, but refused to abandon the exercise, insisting they carried on and identified the areas the attack had taken place.
During evidence given on day three of the trial of Peter Watton, of Hensley Drive, Lache, DC Rigley described how the alleged victim had scattered items of clothing at the scene in order to create a trail for someone to find her.
She buried her car keys out of fear Watton would take her car where her phone and handbag were - these have never been found.
'One in a billion' DNA chance
Forensic evidence gathered following the alleged rape reveals there is a ‘one in a billion chance’ of DNA not belonging to Peter Watton, a jury heard.
Chester Crown Court heard that in the hours following the harrowing 999 call after the jogger allegedly ‘ran for her life’ forensic evidence was gathered from the female jogger.
Having been sent away and tested evidence including semen on the victim and a blood stain in a sock, the victim claimed belonged to Watton, matched his DNA profile.
In a statement read out in Chester Crown Court it was claimed by forensic experts the chance of the DNA coming from someone else was “one in a billion”.
The victim allegedly gathered pieces of her attackers clothing during the nine hour abduction, and handed them to the police so that they could identify him, the jury was told on day three of the trial.
Just hours after she sought refuge in the house the woman -who cannot be named for legal reasons - was examined by medical forensics who said she had ‘foliage in her hair’, had ‘dirt’ all over her feet, hands, knees and embedded in her nails.
She had cuts and scratches on her body, had not been beaten, but had spots which looked like she had been exposed to a plant all over her body, consistent with having being ‘naked in woodland’.