Giving evidence in court, Charlie Elphicke wept as he listed a number of regrets that he had.
And yet as he was last night found guilty of three charges of sexual assault many will conclude that his biggest regret of all was being found out.
Indeed, so frequent were his lapses of judgement it’s hard to imagine how he could have been considered suitable for public office, let alone the job of a Conservative whip, responsible for party discipline.
Charlie Elphicke was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault on Wednesday. His wife, Dover MP Natalie Elphicke announced they had split immediately after the conviction
An ‘accomplished liar’, now, finally, he must face the consequences – a reputation in ruins, a criminal record, a very probable spell in prison and now the end of his marriage.
Immediately after the conviction, Elphicke’s wife Natalie announced that she has left him.
A successful finance lawyer who was awarded an OBE in 2015 for her services to the housing industry, she’d been at his side every day throughout the three-week trial, arriving hand in hand, putting on a show of stoic support and loyalty.
Behind the scenes, however, a close friend of the couple revealed that the marriage has been in trouble for some time, and spoke of furious rows as her patience finally ran out.
The friend said: ‘She gritted her teeth to accompany him to court. She was as steadfast in her support of him as a woman could ever be expected to be.
She went to court with him for the sake of her family.’ After her very public humiliation – not only were there sexual assaults on a series of women, but also a two-year affair, all laid bare – few will be surprised that she’s finally had enough.
Charlie Elphicke’s dramatic downfall started one evening in 2007 with a woman in her 30s with whom he found himself alone in his Belgravia townhouse.
His wife was away on a business trip and their two young children asleep upstairs.
First he quizzed the woman about her sex life, asking if she was into bondage and whether she liked ‘silk or leather’.
Then he pounced on her, kissed and groped her, before chasing her around the house chanting ‘I’m a naughty Tory’ and slapping her bottom in a scene described as being straight out of a Benny Hill sketch.
Elphicke a former Government Whip and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury was MP for Dover from 2010 to 2019, stepping aside before last December’s election when his wife Natalie (right) stood instead
While Elphicke denied the comments and the pursuit, he admitted that he shared a consensual kiss prompted, he claimed, by her dropping a number of chocolates into his open mouth.
‘In a moment of extreme stupidity I forgot who I was… I forgot where I was,’ the 49-yearold said.
‘I should not have let this happen – the buck stops with me. It was one of the greatest regrets of my life.’
Until, that is, the next one.
That came in 2015 when he started a two year affair with a second young woman whom he had met through his work.
Naturally, all done behind his wife Natalie’s back.
But even those extra-marital activities didn’t stop Elphicke’s roving eye from latching on to woman No3, a Parliamentary worker in her early 20s.
Whining about his ‘unhappy marriage’, the then Tory MP for Dover and Deal plied her with champagne, after which he kissed and groped her.
A second assault took place at a later date.
Natalie Elphicke was seen leaving Southwark Crown Court alone on Thursday, following the conviction of her husband Charlie on three counts of sexual assault
Again Elphicke painted a different picture, claiming that had merely ‘propositioned her’.
He had, he said, ‘lost his head’ after becoming besotted by the ‘amazing’ younger woman’s ‘vitality and smile’.
When she complained about what had happened to party whips, Elphicke lied and lied again – first to senior party members then to police and his wife, calling the claims ‘appalling and untrue’.
‘I should not have lied to the police, I should have just fronted it up,’ he said in court.
‘I should have told the whole truth rather than half of the truth. It was a terrible mistake. I’m sorry.’
Given last night’s guilty verdicts, it’s safe to assume the apology cut little ice with the jury.
It certainly didn’t with his wife. The Mail can reveal how Charlie Elphicke already had a reputation for making unwanted approaches to young women, long before his accusers went to police.
Last night a Tory activist told the Mail how Elphicke had used the same ‘naughty’ catchphrase after ‘leching after’ his fiancée at the Tory Party annual conference in Manchester in 2009.
Attending a private dinner, the activist said Elphicke, accompanied by wife Natalie, spotted that the woman, some years his junior, was wearing a diamond engagement ring.
‘He asked to have a look at her ring saying he was an expert in diamonds,’ he said.
‘Then he started stroking her hand and said “you can do better than that”. Basically he was humiliating me and leching over her.
‘I felt like punching him – and with hindsight I wished I had done. But I was young, my boss was there and I did not want to make a scene. The way he spoke he sounded like a pantomime villain.
‘His wife could see what was going on and acted as though it was normal. He was looking at my fiancée in a very predatory way. I think he enjoyed belittling me.’
The activist said a second incident occurred involving his fiancée and Elphicke at a function at a London restaurant.
‘He started playing footsie with her under the table and kept asking her “are you naughty? Are you naughty?”,’ he said.
‘When we heard the evidence from the court case and the “naughty Tory” line we knew [the complainant] wasn’t lying.’
Boris Johnson met with Elphicke (left) in Dover last July, several months before he decided not stand at the December General Election
Elphicke’s predatory behaviour finally caught up with him in the autumn of 2017 as ripples from the #MeToo movement, inspired by revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, were spreading into every corner of society.
They soon reached the British political establishment as details of what was to be dubbed the ‘Pestminster Scandal’ emerged.
As a number of MPs were publicly accused of inappropriate behaviour, revelations came to light about the existence of a ‘dirty dossier’ compiled by Westminster researchers containing the names of almost 40 Conservative MPs.
Those named in the dossier were accused of a range of misdemeanours including cheating on their spouses and being ‘handsy at parties’.
A redacted version of the list with the MPs’ names blanked out was published on the Guido Fawkes political gossip website.
Following its publication, newspapers received an email from libel lawyers Carter Ruck acting on behalf of Elphicke.
It warned ‘any allegation relating to Mr Elphicke appearing on the list of MPs (as published by Guido Fawkes) is false and any publication of the allegation made against him, or even the fact that his name appears on the list, is defamatory’.
The Mail can now reveal that the entry in question alleged that Elphicke had been ‘inappropriate’ with members of the opposite sex.
It was against this fevered background that on November 4, 2017, news broke that he had been suspended from the Conservative Party and that ‘serious allegations’ had been referred to the police.
He and Natalie came out fighting: the MP expressing his surprise, shock and anger and stating that he had no idea at all what it was he had been accused of, and his wife saying she and her family had been ‘hung out to dry’ by the Tory Party.
Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court, Elphicke was found guilty on three counts of sexual assault
After a lengthy police investigation, charges of sexual assault involving two women were brought in July 2019. Elphicke stood down from his seat, with his wife duly picked by his constituency party to replace him.
In her victory speech she praised her husband as the best MP the area had had, adding that she was delighted to be given the opportunity to build on ‘his legacy’.
The united front shown by the couple would be maintained as she helped Elphicke prepare to face trial.
Given her background, that is perhaps hardly surprising – both she and her husband are lawyers.
Grammar-school educated Mrs Elphicke studied law at the University of Kent before going on to specialise in the field of housing finance.
Elphicke, meanwhile, took his law degree at Nottingham University having attended fee-paying Felsted School in Essex.
His father Geoffrey was a company director while his mother Mary-Jo dabbled in local politics before herself unsuccessfully standing as a Parliamentary candidate for the Tories in the 1979 election.
She re-married and over the next 20 years wrote 45 books for Mills & Boon under the pen-name of Mary Lyons.
Coincidentally, Elphichke’s older sister is also married to a former Tory MP – Mark Field – who left the Commons last year.
Moments after the former MP’s conviction, Natalie Elphicke sent a tweet out to followers announcing they would be getting to divorced
Having spent his 20s and 30s as a tax lawyer, in 2010 Elphicke successfully stood in the safe Conservative seat of Dover.
The couple’s work commitments were juggled with raising their two children, a girl and boy.
It was just months after their son was born in 2007 that the first of the offences took place.
With his wife away on business for the first time since the birth and the children in bed in their Belgravia townhouse, Elphicke invited the woman to share a £40 bottle of wine with him.
‘I think he talked about me and my boyfriend,’ she told the court.
‘He started talking about what we liked in a sexual way… I just remember saying “that’s not really what we should be talking about”. He was saying “Do you like silk and leather” or something and about a bondage-type thing.’
It was, she said, ‘embarrassing’ and ‘excruciating’.
But what followed, she added, was much worse.
‘He just basically jumped on me,’ she said.
‘He pushed me down by my shoulders and he had his knee between my legs and he was groping my breast. He was trying to put his mouth on my mouth. It wasn’t what I’d describe as a peck. It was like an opened mouth smush on my face. He was all over me.’
The court heard how Elphicke subsequently paid her a sum of money – some £5,000 in increments of £100 and £500.
When interviewed by police Elphicke claimed the woman had demanded to be paid ‘compensation’.
Asked if he had ever told his wife about the payments, Elphicke told police: ‘No.’
The second victim told how in 2016, she found herself in Elphicke’s company sharing a bottle of champagne in Westminster.
They were discussing their mutual liking for Abba when he told her ‘I really do like you’ and assaulted her.
She described feeling threatened by Elphicke whom she said had a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality, telling police she had heard him say: ‘People in my good books go a long way. People in my bad books don’t.’
She said: ‘The message I was getting was, “Don’t p**s me off”.’
Elphicke told the court he believed that she was equally attracted to him and invited her to meet him at his flat, where he waited for several hours but she never came.
‘I felt like a complete idiot,’ he told the court.
His victim said she decided to come forward about the allegations in November 2017 when government whips contacted her over a probe they had started into Elphicke.
As the police investigation progressed, rumours spread in his constituency that he had been having an affair.
He eventually admitted this to his wife, but failed to tell her or the police about his attraction to the other woman he was accused of assaulting in 2016.
Elphicke said he feared if he also owned up to this it would have proved ‘too much’ for his wife, only admitting his true feelings in March this year as they prepared for the trial.
‘It was very, very difficult,’ he said. ‘I’ve got a lot of work to do. She’s most upset that I didn’t tell her at the outset.’
Yet another regret – to add to the list of others.