An international rowing coach accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl has denied the allegations.
Matthew Hackett, who coached rowers from Chester’s The King’s School, leading to them taking part in the Bejiing and London Olympics, told a jury today (Wednesday, February 14) that he had never touched her sexually.
The 54-year-old divorcee - who had left the Chester school years before the offences are alleged to have taken place - admitted rubbing her stomach on several occasions but said this was to relieve her mental and physical stress and was not of a sexual nature.
He is on trial at Liverpool Crown Court denying five offences of sexual assault against the girl.
Asked by his barrister Phil Astburby, “Did you ever touch her in any way in a sexual fashion?”, Hackett, of Waterford Road, Oxton, Birkenhead, replied, “No.”
He added, “I can almost say I treated her like I would treat my daughter.”
The allegations against him involve three occasions at venues away from Merseyside and another when she was house minding in Wirral. The fifth charge relates to occasions when he rubbed her stomach.
Explaining his background Hackett told the court that he is a teacher as well as a rowing coach and had been coach and housemaster at Wycliffe boarding school in Gloucestershire before became a geography teacher and in charge of rowing at The Kings’s School in Chester in 2001 for four years.
He said he had taught rowers in Gloucester and Worcester to national and Olympic standards and coached at both Liverpool and Manchester universities.
After leaving The King’s School he began to coach at Runcorn Rowing Club and in 2012 switched to the Victoria Rowing Club in Wallasey which he built up after it had reached “a low ebb”.
The defendant, who also began working as a supply teacher, is alleged to have sexually assaulted the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, while they were staying in different rooms in a hotel.
He agreed that she came into his room and he rubbed her back, with his fingers going inside the top of her knickers, as she had back ache and denied it was a sexual incident.
She claims that the following Monday he told her not to tell anyone what had happened but he told the court that he had no recollection of telling her that and did not believe it happened.
The teenager also claims that he molested her to two separate occasions while she was in a tent but he denied these occurred. He said that as a teacher “you have a feel for what is right and what is wrong”.
He said they developed a friendship and had regular social media contact and when she was house minding for a friend for ten days he called round four or five times.
The alleged victim claims he called while she was asleep and she expected him to wait downstairs but he came upstairs and got into bed with her.
“He undressed down to his boxer shorts and got into bed with her. He touched her breasts under her pyjama top and started to kiss her, initially on her forehead then her nose, and then tried to kiss her on her lips, but she turned away,” Arthur Gibson, prosecuting, has claimed.
Asked about this Hackett, formerly of Chester, said he waited for her downstairs for 20 minutes but then went upstairs to wake her and then sat on a wicker chair in the bedroom before waking her.
He said he was wearing his running gear and sat on the side of the bed and hugged her. “It may have been the warmest hug you ever had, she hugged me and I hugged her. I remember stroking her back.”
He explained that she was upset over her exam grades and he himself was in a bad place and the hug was “mutually consoling, reassuring”. Asked if anything sexual happened he replied: “Nothing at all. We chatted.”
Hackett said over time their relationship deteriorated though they stayed in touch.
The girl only told her mum about the incidents a year later when she broke down in tears and the police were then informed.
Hackett told the jury that he had never been interviewed by the police before and had not requested a solicitor. “I could not perceive a charge coming from what we had done. It wasn’t a sexual relationship. I hadn’t done anything wrong, why did I need a solicitor?”
Mr Gibson has told the jury: “ The touching, albeit under her clothing, of her bottom, legs, breasts and stomach, is not the worst example of sexual assault, but it is still wrong and criminally wrong to engage in such activity when the recipient does not consent in it, and the detrimental effect of such activity, particularly on a young girl, can be out of all proportion.”
The case continues.