Tamas Farkas, 36, was found guilty of sexual assault at Manchester Magistrates’ Court
A young woman was left ‘frozen, trapped and powerless’ as a plane passenger caressed her leg for up to 20 minutes while they sat next to each other.
The victim was sat in the middle of a row of three seats on the Jet2 plane when taxi driver Tamas Farkas, 36, who was pretending to be asleep, suddenly pressed his leg against her before running his hand up her thigh.
The woman in her 20s tried to move away, read and listen to music as the plane cruised at 30,000ft – but Farkas continued to fondle her leg until she tapped him on the shoulder; asking him to move so she could go to the toilet.
She fled to the back of the plane where she broke down in tears as she told cabin crew of her ordeal. The woman was moved to a different seat and police were alerted after the plane from Budapest touched down at Manchester.
At Manchester Magistrates’ Court, the victim had to relive the incident as Farkas, from Broughton in Flintshire, North Wales, was found guilty of sexual assault.
He claimed he might have touched her accidentally during turbulence. But the woman told the hearing: ‘Normally if you do accidentally touch someone on a flight you apologise, but he didn’t. The movement was not involuntary.
The woman fled to the back of the Jet2 plane (file picture) where she broke down in tears
‘I was doing everything to distract myself. I tried to read but I couldn’t, I tried to listen to music but I couldn’t focus. I could just feel his fingers on me.
‘He was caressing my leg. I was too scared to say anything to him because I didn’t know how he would react and I wanted to draw as little attention as possible.
‘I didn’t want to call the cabin crew, I just wanted to get out as quickly as possible. I felt trapped and I didn’t want to be stuck there next to him.’
The assault occurred on May 25 last year after the woman was allocated a seat in a row between Farkas and another man.
She added: ‘I put my rucksack between my legs but as soon as he sat down, his leg encroached into my area and it came into contact with my leg.
‘He also took up all of the arm rest so I couldn’t put my arm on there. I put my earphones in and fell asleep for 20 to 30 minutes when something woke me up.
‘I felt his leg touching my leg and he was moving it up and down deliberately and slowly rubbing his leg on mine.
‘It was touching my entire leg from the thigh area all the way down to the ankle. It was right up against my leg. I was trying really hard to avoid this contact with him.
‘He didn’t speak to me. He was resting his whole arm on the arm rest at this point. He wasn’t giving me any space to use the arm rest.
‘It was particularly his knee and thigh that wears rubbing against my knee and thigh. It moved a few inches up and down. This went in for almost 20 minutes.
Farkas claimed at Manchester Magistrates’ Court that he might have touched her accidentally
‘I tried to move my phone from underneath my right leg but I dropped it and it fell between the seats on the other side where the other man was.
‘As I bent down to pick it up the man on my left took this as an opportunity for his arm to fall over the arm rest and land on my thigh on the outer side.
‘I didn’t understand what was going on I couldn’t move my leg. He was making subtle circular motions on my thigh, really slowly.
‘Although it wasn’t that obvious to people around, he was doing it and I could feel it through my jeans. I found myself pressing up against the other arm rest to make as less contact as possible. He was still rubbing his leg against mine. I was frozen.
‘I just thought my best bet was to try and leave the seat and tell them and ask if I could move to a different seat. I decided I had to get away from him. I prodded him very hard on his right shoulder and said ‘excuse me, I need to go to the toilet’.
‘He made a play of waking up. He kept his eyes closed for a very long time before slurring very slowly and dramatically moving his head.
‘I prodded him again and said it again and it was obvious that he wasn’t asleep. A normal person would have woken up and apologised.
‘He got out of the way so I could leave my seat. I went to the back of the plane and took a minute for myself. I didn’t want him to see me speaking to them.
‘I went over to the cabin crew and asked if I could move to a different seat and said that a man had been touching me. I got really upset and they gave me a drink of water to calm me down.
‘They let me switch my seat and I sat at the back of the plane. I spoke to the police as soon as I got off the plane. He was not asleep. The touching of my leg was deliberate.
‘His pretending to be asleep was not believable. I don’t understand how some could do this. I felt powerless and very small in that moment.
‘I wanted to get away from him. I was really worried when his hand started to move to my inner thigh, I just wanted to escape.
‘The contact didn’t stop when I prodded him. When he pretended to wake up, it was over the top and unbelievable. I just wanted to get away.’
Joe Connor, prosecuting, said: ‘ This touching was sexual and he carried on for 15-20 minutes. When she left her seat and sat at the rear of plane, she broke down in tears and was clearly in distress.
‘In police interview the defendant said he was asleep during the flight and suggested that the lady made a false allegation in order to get compensation.
‘He said he kept his legs together during the flight and kept his arms on his lap.’
Farkas, who had flown to Hungary for dental treatment, denied sexual assault and said: ‘I would never touch a woman like that during a flight.
‘It wasn’t intentional and I had my earphones in. I cannot tell you anything about this flight as I have no memories of it – and if I did touch her it would have been in my sleep. It could have been the turbulence.’
Richard Thomas, defending, said: ‘This was a long flight. It is possible he was asleep and made the movements whilst he was asleep.
‘There was opportunity for her to tell him, or the man next to her. She could have used the button above to call the cabin crew or asked the drink carriage steward for help. People who fall asleep often make movements like this in their sleep.’
But, finding him guilty, district judge Sam Goozee told Farkas: ‘Your account is not believable. Your actions and behaviour were deliberate and intentional.
‘This is not something a sleeping person would do. There was a sexual element with the touching as you caressed her thigh for a substantial period of time.
‘She did not consent to this. She gave clear, concise and detailed evidence, whilst you changed your evidence from your police evidence as you claimed you couldn’t remember the flight. You even said she made a false allegation to claim compensation.’
Farkas will be sentenced later and was granted bail. His passport was seized.