Newlywed groped student as he flew back from honeymoon in Hawaii, court hears

A newlywed City trader groped a sleeping student while flying from his honeymoon in Hawaii, a court heard.

Robert Van Den Bergh, 37, allegedly stroked the woman’s thigh as he sat next to her in economy class on the 10-hour United Airlines flight.

The economics student, sitting in the window seat, had taken two sleeping pills and Mr Van Den Bergh allegedly joked that the pills could make her unconscious.

She woke up to find Mr Van Den Bergh touching the middle of her thigh as the motion grew “stronger and more deliberate”, jurors heard.

Mr Van Den Bergh denies sexual assault between 31 December 2019 and 1 January 2020.

Richard Scott, prosecuting, said the woman “placed a pillow, a small cushion, between her and her fellow passenger”.

However, the touching continued with Mr Van Den Bergh apparently touching her upper left thigh and buttock.

“This went on in excess for an hour and a half before the man got up to use the lavatory and the victim got out of her seat and asked to be moved,” said Mr Scott.

Giving evidence in court the victim said: “I felt his fingers grazing my left thigh. I was element whether it was intentional or not.

“At first [the touching] was light and unnoticeable but it gradually grew in confidence and after two hours I knew that it was intentional.

“There was more pressure over time, and it was long strokes. I tried to move more towards the window of the plane.

“At one point it went towards where my underwear was, towards the end of my thigh and my bum.

“I felt like he was picking at my underwear and feeling the contours of it, as though he was sort of lifting the seam a little bit.

“I just was very scared and I didn’t know what to do in the situation. I was just full of fear.”

She added: “I wanted to get out of my seat and that’s when I looked at his face. I saw that his body was angled towards me and his eyes were closed. He turned so that is torso was facing me.’”

Once they had landed at Heathrow Airport, police officers boarded the plane and escorted Mr Van Den Bergh off the plane.

He told police he had flown seperately from his wife as she was traveling with a friend.

He said he had chatted to both women either side of him in the flight and “didn’t sense any tension between them”.

He claimed he tossed and turned quite a bit as he slept.

He told police: “You try to keep a distance, but it is quite difficult in economy.

“I can confirm that I would never do that. I’ve never done anything remotely like that. I would be very surprised of anything of that order of magnitude.”

The trial continues.