Ex-Olympian 'punched' woman over proposal

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2012

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A former Olympic athlete is alleged to have punched his girlfriend in the face because she said no to his proposal of marriage, a court has heard.

The man, whose name is suppressed, is facing a second trial for physical and sexual assaults on two of his former partners.

He stood trial in 2010 for alleged sexual and physical assaults on his then-wife in 2008.

He was found not guilty of most counts but the jury was unable to reach a decision on two counts of rape and one count of strangling the woman.

His re-trial on those counts began yesterday in the High Court at Auckland.

The charges were joined this time by further allegations he had raped, sexually violated, assaulted and kidnapped another partner 10 years earlier.

Those charges, dating back to 1998, allege eight crimes including injuring with intent to injure, kidnapping, rape, and two representative charges of repeated rapes and sexual violations over the course of their relationship.

Crown prosecutor Fionnghuala Cuncannon told the jury the charges related to "two abusive relationships".

She said the two women had never met but "they will give you remarkably similar accounts" of the man's controlling behaviour, anger, violence and physical and sexual abuse.

The 1998 charges related to incidents in Christchurch.

On New Year's Eve 1998 the man allegedly dragged his then-partner out of a bar where they had been partying.

Cuncannon said he physically assaulted her and raped her, a pattern of events that recurred a number of times over their relationship.

She said the woman did not remember specifics of each incident but certain ones stuck in her mind.

In one, a few months into their relationship, the sportsman asked her to marry him.

''When she told him it was a bit early to get married he punched her in the face,'' Cuncannon said.

Defence lawyer Hugh Leabourne told the jury the defence case would be that there was no unlawful sex and no incidents of violence or kidnapping.

Cuncannon said the prosecution would call on domestic violence experts to explain ''why people often try to hide what is happening to them''.

The trial before Justice Peters is scheduled for two weeks

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