Ryder Cup golfer ‘groped air stewardess and urinated on seats’ after ‘partying’ in first class

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·4-min read
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  • Ian Poulter
    Ian Poulter
    Professional golfer
  • Justin Rose
    Justin Rose
    English professional golfer
Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen arrives for a hearing in his court case at Aldersgate House, London - PA/Jonathan Brady
Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen arrives for a hearing in his court case at Aldersgate House, London - PA/Jonathan Brady

Thorbjørn Olesen, the Ryder Cup-winning Danish golfer, sexually assaulted a woman on a British Airways flight after drinking champagne and vodka and taking sleeping pills, a court has heard.

The 31-year-old was on his way home from a tournament in Memphis, Tennessee, and was travelling with English golf stars Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, when he allegedly grabbed a woman's breast, swore, pushed a member of the cabin crew and urinated on a first class seat.

Prior to the incident, witnesses claimed they saw a small group of passengers gathered around Mr Olesen's seat with a handful of "brightly coloured pills".

One member of the crew claimed she heard someone in the group say: "Oh, I'll have some of those," while another BA stewardess said it appeared some passengers were "trying to have a party".

John Haggis, a fellow traveller, reported hearing the sound of tablet foil being broken and Mr Poulter saying he had given one to Mr Olesen earlier, the court heard.

The Danish sportsman, who now lives in London, was arrested when the aircraft landed at Heathrow, but said he had no memory of his behaviour while on board.

His barrister, Trevor Burke QC, suggested Mr Olesen's "bizarre behaviour" was due to prescription medication he had taken, which could have the side effect of causing "sleep walking" and "amnesia".

Mr Olesen denies sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft
Mr Olesen denies sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft

In a statement read out in court, Sarah White, a BA cabin crew member, said she had served the golfer, who was travelling first class, with a glass of champagne before take-off, followed by a vodka and cranberry juice.

She said she had also noticed him drinking champagne from another passenger's glass.

Ms White said at one point she had noticed Mr Olesen struggling to get out of the aircraft lavatory by pushing at a pull door, but when she tried to help him he pushed her and said: "It's all about you isn't it, just go away."

She said: "During the flight, Mr Olesen assaulted me and failed to listen to my instructions. Through my 27 years of service, I have never come across such bad behaviour on board a flight."

Graham Gee, a crew member, then tried to intervene to get Olesen back to his seat, but he grabbed his hand and began to kiss it, the jury was told.

A woman, who cannot be identified, also gave a statement in which she claimed Olesen had grabbed her hand and started to kiss it.

She said: "He would not let go and then nuzzled his face into the nape of my neck. I felt he clearly didn't know what he was doing.

"He had his right hand around my back. With his left hand, he then grabbed my breast and moved his hand over my right breast. I felt shocked, he had overstepped the mark."

The court heard that Mr Poulter – also a member of Europe's Ryder Cup team – felt his fellow golfer was "in a good mood" and "very jovial" when he boarded the flight.

He said he had taken some sleeping tablets but had not given any to Mr Olesen.

"I was unaware of what happened. I assisted with bringing him back to his seat. He looked a little bit worse for wear and I just assumed he had too much to drink," he explained.

Ian Poulter and Justin Rose at the World Golf Championship-FedEx St Jude Invitational in 2019 - Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Ian Poulter and Justin Rose at the World Golf Championship-FedEx St Jude Invitational in 2019 - Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

At one point during the flight, Mr Rose – a former world No 1 golfer and winner of the Olympic title in 2016 – was allegedly seen by cabin crew opening his overhead locker and removing a small medicine bottle before going to speak to Mr Olesen.

He then approached a member of the crew and said: "He hasn't taken anything because I found this tablet in the area where he was sitting," the court heard.

Mr Burke, defending, told jurors they would have to decide: "What prompted his bizarre behaviour?"

He said they should consider an "alternative explanation" to the prosecution case that "he drank too much liquor and was drunk".

He explained that Mr Olesen had taken Melatonin and Zolpidem sleeping tablets and with the combination of alcohol he would have had no control or memory over his actions.

Zolpidem, better known under the brand name Ambien, is a common prescription medication used to treat short-term sleeping problems, jurors heard.

The QC told jurors Olesen's partner, Lauren Zafer, an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, had bought Ambien tablets online to treat her insomnia.

The defence case is that he took the prescription-only medication along with melatonin, commonly used to manage jet lag.

The court heard that none of the substances Olesen may have consumed were on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list.

Mr Olesen denies sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft on July 29 2019.

The trial at central London's Aldersgate House Nightingale Court continues.

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