John Leslie collapsed and cried today after he was found not guilty of groping a woman at a Christmas party in 2008.
The former Blue Peter presenter, 55, was accused of grabbing a woman’s breasts at the Soho Revue Bar, in Greek Street in London’s West End but said the incident never happened.
He walked free from Southwark Crown Court after a jury of nine men and three women cleared him of sexual assault following just 23 minutes deliberation.
It is the second time he has successfully contested sexual assault charges in the same court. However, the case will do little to rehabilitate his battered reputation, with his own lawyer branding him an ’embarrassment’.
Leslie’s career first took a downward spiral when he was falsely accused of raping Ulrika Jonsson by the TV presenter Matthew Wright. Wright later apologised, saying he had given his name in error .
Other women have made claims of indecent assault against Leslie, and he was arrested in December 2002 on one count of rape and two concerning indecent assault, before being released on bail after an interview.
In June 2003, he was charged with assaulting a woman twice between May 25 and 28 1997. The charges were dropped at Southwark Crown Court on July 31, 2003 after new information emerged about the alleged victim.
But he remained the subject of scandal, with photographs emerging of him taking cocaine, along with a video of a threesome involving Leslie and his then girlfriend Abi Titmuss, a nurse who went on to become a glamour model.
Judge Deborah Taylor, using Leslie’s legal name, said today: ‘Mr Stott, you for the second time leave this court without a stain on your character and I hope it will be the last time you have to attend.’
John Leslie walking free from court today after he was found not guilty by a jury over claims he grabbed a woman’s breasts at a Christmas party in central London on December 5, 2008
After today’s not guilty verdict, an emotional Leslie banged his forehead on the glass of the dock before putting his hand over his face and weeping.
His father, Les, stood up, punched the air and fell down crying with his head in his hands.
When his son looked to the public gallery through tears of his own, Les shook both fists at him in triumph.
The court had previously heard a woman claimed, out of nowhere, that the ‘over-excited’ presenter who ‘didn’t get out much’ grabbed her breasts and gave a ‘hearty laugh’ when she introduced himself to him.
Witnesses in the West End bar testified they were told about the alleged incident 12 years ago, but did not see it.
The Scot had told the jury he could not remember being at the party, and described the single allegation of sexual assault from December 5 2008 as ‘crazy’ and ‘ludicrous’.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘I would not have touched her like some mannequin and walked off.’
He told the jury he had previously been made out to be an ‘aggressive, sexual monster’ by the tabloid press, as he denied ever assaulting any woman, saying it is ‘not in my nature’.
Leslie said his life changed completely in 2002 when he was wrongly identified on live television as the unnamed alleged rapist in his former girlfriend Ulrika Jonsson’s autobiography.
Presenter Matthew Wright later apologised, saying he named him in error, the court was told.
Ms Jonsson has never made any complaint to police, the jury heard.
Leslie, from Edinburgh, said there had never been any sexual assault allegations against him before his name was wrongly linked to the book, and described the fallout as ‘Armageddon’.
Famous faces Fern Britton, Anthea Turner, Yvette Fielding and Diane-Louise Jordan, from his time presenting This Morning and Blue Peter, all gave character statements to support their friend, calling him a ‘gentleman’.
Gudrun Young, defending, today told the court that Leslie had been the victim of ‘trial by media’ and that the alleged victim’s account was riddled with inconsistencies.
Addressing the jury, she said: ‘If you knew anything about him I would suggest the two things you would have talked about are Blue Peter and sexual impropriety of some sort since 2002.
‘Yet he is, and remains, a man of good character. No convictions, no cautions. It has never been established that he has done anything wrong to anybody.
She branded his treatment a ‘media witch hunt.’
Former Blue Peter presenters Diane-Louise Jordan (left) and Anthea Turner leave Southwark Crown Court after giving evidence defending Leslie
John Leslie and Ulrika Jonsson pictured presenting Big Breakfast back in 1993
She added: ‘His career ruined, his life blighted by completely unfounded allegations. He has been made to look, in the tabloid press, like some sort of monster. All without a single shred of evidence.
‘This time at least its being tried in a court of law.’
Turning to the alleged victim’s evidence, she said: ‘There were some very odd thing in the account that she gave some bits that didn’t really make sense end some bits that didn’t match up to other evidence in the case.
‘She was changing, adapting, massaging her evidence to account for the bizarre fact that she says that this man went up in full view of others to commit this brazen sexual assault but no-one seems to have seen it.’
She pleaded with the jury to return a not guilty verdict and added: ‘Its just not credible.’
Leslie is pictured today with his father, Lesley Stott
‘It just didn’t happen. He knows he’s done nothing and he has nothing to hide.
‘There are two John Leslies. The John Leslie that’s been portrayed as a sex pest in the press.
‘There is the John Leslie, and the real John Leslie, who is known to his friends and his colleagues.’
Speaking about the night in December 2008 at an earlier hearing, Leslie said: ‘I don’t recall that particular party but I do remember talking to Jade Goody at length.
‘She was very ill. I know she was rather upset about how the tabloids had been treating her.
‘I think it was that year because I know she died not long after that.’
He added: ‘I have no idea who [the alleged victim] is. There was no reason to speak to her or meet her.
‘The idea I would do that is just crazy, especially the way I was and everything that had been going on.
‘I was paranoid [after previous allegations]. I was aware, conscious. To go up to a total stranger and just do that would be ludicrous and never would have happened. I can’t imagine why she thought it would’ve happened.
‘I would’ve said hello, but not touched her and walked off. It’s not me. It never would have happened.’
He also said: ‘It’s not a backward industry. We treat women fairly. People don’t go around assaulting women. It’s just not done.
‘You wouldn’t let it happen. It’s not allowed. It’s not something people would condone or allow.
‘People wouldn’t watch it and let it happen. If I had seen it I wouldn’t have let it happen. I would never do such a thing.’
Fern Britton (left) also came out to defend Leslie at his trial, as did Yvette Fielding (pictured on the right at the bottom)
How John Leslie went from squeaky clean Blue Peter presenter to being dogged by scandals including false Ulrika Jonsson rape claim and threesome sex tape with Abi Titmuss
John Leslie was today cleared of sexual assault, but the news will come too late for a man who went from a squeaky clean Blue Peter presenter to being repeatedly dogged by scandals.
The 55-year-old, who also presented This Morning, was found not guilty by a jury over claims he grabbed a woman’s breasts at a Christmas party in central London on December 5, 2008.
Before the trial, Leslie had already been investigated an astonishing number of times over separate sexual assault allegations made to police since 2002, when he was falsely accused of raping Ulrika Jonsson.
Dozens of other women have publicly accused him of similar seedy behaviour, while he has been the subject of salacious revelations about his sex life (including his starring role in a threesome sex tape with Abi Titmuss) and his use of cocaine.
A string of former Blue Peter presenters rallied around Leslie at his trial, with Anthea Turner, Diane Louise Jordan and Yvette Fielding taking to the stand to call him a ‘gentleman’ and deny he was ever inappropriate towards women.
Leslie has never been found guilty of any offence, but his own barrister today claimed he had become a ‘notorious’ and a ‘nobody’ because of the repeated claims against him.
The former star, who once earned £350,000 a year, was last known to be living in an Edinburgh bungalow and doing DJ jobs to earn extra money.
John Leslie (on the right) with his fellow Blue Peter presenters Jonathan Coleman and Annabel Giles
The previous two decades have been a downward spiral for a man who enjoyed a spectacular rise from being a newsagent’s son to one of the best-known TV personalities in Britain.
In 2002, Leslie was mistakenly named by the TV presenter Matthew Wright as Ulrika Jonsson’s rapist that she wrote about anonymously in her 2002 autobiography.
Wright subsequently said he could not remember saying Leslie’s name during the show.
In a Sky One show, Wright offered John Leslie an apology. Leslie confirmed he would not sue Wright, saying: ‘I think he just made a really big mistake and unfortunately I was the one paying the price.’
Jonsson made no public comment on Leslie’s naming and did not cooperate with police over the matter. Police investigated Leslie but never charged him with the alleged offence.
Other women have made claims of indecent assault against Leslie, and he was arrested in December 2002 on one count of rape and two concerning indecent assault, before being released on bail after an interview.
In June 2003, he was charged with assaulting a woman twice between May 25 and 28 1997.
The charges were dropped at Southwark Crown Court on July 31 2003 after new information emerged about the alleged victim.
Leslie later appeared on the court steps where he said, while visibly shaking: ‘I am an innocent man. I have maintained my innocence throughout and today it’s been justified.’
The Scot began his working life as a piano teacher who did DJ gigs at a disco in his spare time.
He did well, getting slots at bigger and bigger clubs before being invited to submit a show-reel for a job presenting a music show on a satellite channel.
Then, in 1989, the BBC called him in for audition and he landed the coveted job of Blue Peter presenter, on a salary of £16,800.
Leslie correctly calculated that the job would lead to other, more lucrative, opportunities — as it duly did when he moved on five years later.
‘I did a short-lived big-budget, Gladiators-style show called Scavengers in 1994 and earned £15,000 an episode,’ he told the Telegraph in a rare interview. ‘That was when I realised I was earning decent money.’
He then started presenting Wheel of Fortune, initially filming three shows a week at £2,000 a show. His income was further boosted to £350,000 a year when, in 2001, he began presenting This Morning with Fern Britton.
While he was at Blue Peter, he dated the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones for 18 months, admitting in later years that she was the only woman he ever truly loved.
‘I should have been far more responsible, sensitive and aware,’ he has said. ‘Someone said if I’d been a rock star it would have been accepted, whereas because I was a Blue Peter presenter, people were out to get me.
‘I didn’t know how to handle my private life. The party was 24/7 and I trusted too many people, and soon enough the wheels were going to come off.’
In 2003, Leslie famously left the court having been told that he did so ‘without a stain on his character’.
But the damage had been done. Photographs had emerged of him taking cocaine, and a stolen sex tape of a threesome involving Leslie and his then girlfriend Abi Titmuss, a nurse who went on to become a glamour model, was leaked on the internet.
With a £500,000 legal bill to pay, and with ITV having ended his contract, Leslie was forced to look elsewhere for funds.
No doubt imagining that his career would one day be revived, he turned his hand to property developing. After all, he had already overseen the construction of his multimillion-pound dream home.
But while it has been reported that he made a fortune by renovating several flats and a nursing home in London, it seems he was hit hard by the 2008 financial crash.
After renting out his bachelor pad for a number of years, in 2010 Leslie had no choice but to part with it.
‘I pleaded with the bank to let me keep the Richmond house but was forced to sell it for £3.5 million when the crash hit and the bank wanted its money back,’ he said.
‘I paid them back every penny, but there was nothing left. I thought I was going to get out with some money but I sold at the worst time.’
By then he was living back in Edinburgh, where he bought a bungalow close to his septuagenarian parents, Leslie and Lexia Stott (their son took ‘Leslie’ as his stage surname).
He would go on to buy other properties nearby, though the investments don’t appear to have been entirely trouble-free. One six-bedroom house was bought for £1.25 million in 2006.
It was put back on the market for £2.5 million in 2009, but eventually sold in 2013 for £1.8 million — a decent sum, although the lavish renovations that Leslie undertook would doubtless have eaten into the profit.
He also bought two neighbouring bungalows, including the one he was most recently living in. The other was sold to a couple from London for £485,000.
Leslie was last known to be working DJ slots at local Edinburgh clubs.
He previously spoke of wanting to be a ‘flagbearer’ to campaign for anonymity for people accused of sex crimes.
Leslie told the Daily Record that names of accused should be withheld as ‘your life is destroyed before you’re charged’.
Leslie strongly denied the sexual assault claims that he was cleared of at his latest trial.
Leslie showing off a Thunderbirds puppet on Blue Peter, where he was a popular presenter
His barrister, Gudrun Young, today told the court his most recent accuser was able to orchestrate a ‘clever lie’ because her client was ‘a bit of an embarrassment’.
‘Since his fall from grace in 2002 he became notorious, infamous not for his TV work but for allegations of a sexual, scurrilous, scandalous nature,’ she said.
‘Trial by media is the worst and most unfair way of being judged. They can ruin you without a single shred of evidence.
‘People with all sort of motives can say anything about you. It’s difficult to defend yourself against that isn’t it?’
A string of former colleagues came out to defend Leslie at his trial.
Fern Britton, who he co-hosted This Morning with in the 90s, said she was ‘confident’ the allegation was not true.
Leslie had been accused grabbing a woman’s breasts out of nowhere at the celebrity party in London’s West End 12 years ago.
In a written statement, Britton said: ‘I asked immediately if it was him. He said no. I have no reason to disbelieve him and have supported him from then on. The allegations hit John very hard.’
She added: ‘I am confident the allegation made does not fit with the man that I know in the slightest.’
Andrea Turner, 60, a TV presenter turned clean-up queen, appeared in person to give evidence in front of jurors. She presented Blue Peter from 1992 until 1994, all with Leslie.
Dressed in tartan trousers and a white blouse, she said: ‘I didn’t have a lot of confidence at the time (when I started Blue Peter). I was very green. He, with open arms, welcomed me aboard.
‘John is somebody historically who always had a smile on his face, and was the most welcoming person.
‘I like to say that he’s the type of person who was brought up to share his toys. When you’re a television presenter you get two types of people. You get the person who wants to drop you in it, letting you die in front of the camera.
‘Or you get the person that is a real pal, and that is John. If you didn’t remember the question he would pick you up. We were very much a team and John is a team player.’
She added he was ‘absolutely adored by every woman I knew that worked with him’.
Songs of Praise presenter Diane-Louise Jordan, 60, was the first black Blue Peter presenter in 1990. Wearing an orange, white and black plaid shirt dress she said: ‘I was feeling a lot under the spotlight, very vulnerable.
‘It was in that environment I got to know John and he’s a gentleman. He was extremely kind to me. He’s a larger than life character, always overbrimming with life in him.
‘He’s just a fun gorgeous person to be around. He has that exceptional quality of deep empathy and deep kindness. I can’t describe how supportive and loving he was.’
She added: ‘I’m not really a showbizzy type person. I actually really dislike the limelight. I have lots of colleagues I know and respect. Very few of them actually come into my personal life.
‘John is a part of my personal life. He knows my husband well. We have a skiing holiday every year. John is a part of that very intimate group.
‘The reason I’m here today, I actually requested to be here today because I feel so strongly about this.
‘Even if it was my husband, or one of my brothers, if I thought they were guilty, I wouldn’t stand here supporting him.’
Yvette Fielding, presenter of Most Haunted and other ghost-hunting shows, said she had recommended Leslie for the Blue Peter job after seeing him audition.
She was the youngest presenter at the time when she joined at 18 in 1987. Appearing via video link, she said: ‘There was this one particular time when we were filming Blue Peter in one of the locations when we would go abroad, we went to Zimbabwe and were gone for six weeks.
‘We shared a hut in the middle of the African bush for 10 days. John was incredibly gentlemanly. He would turn away every time I had to change.
‘If it was the middle of the night, and I had to go to the ladies restroom, I was scared to death of peeing in the bush and he would shine a torch.
‘He averted his eyes when I had to go to the lavatory. In all the years I’ve known John he’s been a lovely lovely person.’
Whatever happened to Abi Titmuss? As John Leslie is found not guilty of groping woman’s breasts in 2008, former lads’ mag favourite who appeared in a threesome sex tape with her ex is now a wife and mother with a successful acting career in the US
By Chloe Morgan for MailOnline
During the noughties it was near-impossible to turn a page in a newspaper or flick on the television screens without being greeted with the face of Abi Titmuss.
The former nurse, 44, from Newark-on-Trent, first started dominating headlines when she became the girlfriend of TV presenter John Leslie, 55, who she met in a bar in Fulham on April 10, 1999.
After going their separate ways around 2004, Abi then went on to work as a roving reporter for Richard and Judy, before appearing in a selection of reality shows – including Hell’s Kitchen, Celebrity Love Island and Come Dine With Me.
But fast forward two decades and Abi is now a wife and mother-of-one, who has carved out a successful acting career in the US.
Abi Titmuss, 44, from Newark-on-Trent, first hit the headlines when she started dating John Leslie (pictured together), having met in a bar in Fulham in April, 1999
Pictured, heavily pregnant Abi and husband Ari Welkom leave his band’s concert hand in hand at the Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles, California on July 5 2017
In 2015, Abi landed her biggest role to date in soap opera Days Of Our Lives, where she played Nurse Jackie (pictured)
It comes as John Leslie wept today after he was cleared of groping a woman at a party in 2008.
The former Blue Peter presenter was accused of grabbing a woman’s breasts at a celebrity Christmas party but said the incident never happened.
The 55-year-old walked free from Southwark Crown Court today after a jury of nine men and three women found him not guilty of sexual assault following just 23 minutes deliberation.
Abi was his girlfriend when he was charged with sexually assaulting another woman in 2003, and was still working as a nurse although she had trained as an actor and dreamed of working in film.
When the case against Leslie collapsed and she emerged with him from court, her combination of demure looks combined with a plunging neckline turned her into an overnight sensation.
‘Suddenly I was being offered a lot of money to do shoots,’ she explained to Mail Online in 2015.
Abi has also appeared in film Girls After Dark, where she played the character of Loretta Berman (pictured)
The first pictures of Abi and husband Ari Welkom with their new baby in Los Angeles, California were shared in January 2018
The 44-year-old once said that what attracted her to Ari, who plays Aldo in the soap, was his lack of judgement about her saucy former career (pictured, together)
Ari Welkom (pictured), 41, is an American rock star and actor who rose to fame in 2005 due to his appearance in Brick, alongside Joseph-Gordon Levitt
‘I thought I could handle it. But I couldn’t. They created this caricature of a person that I didn’t recognise. I was always the same Abigail inside. I studied Latin at school, I’m from a good family. But the image that was created was nonsense.’
However, Abi, who was once voted the 7th sexiest woman in the world, suffered embarrassment when a sex tape she made with John and an aspiring female model was released to the public.
‘I was devastated by the violation,’ Abi later said, speaking to the Daily Star. ‘It affected me very badly. I guess there was something accessible about me.’
She went on to feature on the front page of various lads’ magazines – including Nuts, Zoo and FHM.
‘I didn’t think I deserved the attention, so the more money I earned, the worse I felt,’ she said, speaking to FEMAIL back in 2012.
‘I could make £30,000 for a shoot but I knew how third-rate I was. I could feel my lack of discernible talent as though I was wearing it.’
But in the mid-noughties, she decided to focus on her acting career and attended the Central School of Speech and Drama.
A short stint in theatre beckoned, where Abi bagged a Fringe Report award for Best West End Debut in Two Way Mirror, before going on to play Lady Macbeth in Lowestoft.
After starring in Hotel Babylon and then Casualty in 2012, Abi fled to the States, changed her name to Abigail Evelyn, and in 2015 landed the role of Nurse Jackie in long running soap opera Days Of Our Lives.
It was there that she met husband Ari Welkom, 41, an American rock star and actor, who rose to stardom in 2005 following his appearance in Brick, alongside Joseph-Gordon Levitt.
Abi – now a wife and mother-of-one – has carved out a successful acting career in the US (pictured)
She said that what attracted her to Ari, who plays Aldo in the soap, was his lack of judgement about her saucy former career.
‘I wanted to meet somebody who didn’t know anything about me so I would know 100 per cent in my heart this person just liked me for me and didn’t have any judgement.’
It was around this time Abi admitted that the arc lights of fame drove her into a suicidal depression that took years of therapy and a move to the other side of the Atlantic to break.
Speaking of whether she actually considered killing herself, Abi told Mail Online in 2015: ‘Yes, many times. It took me years of therapy to deal with the depression. It was a traumatic experience. I don’t think it will ever go away.’
Abi and Ari tied the knot in May 2017, and the media learned she was pregnant in January 2018, when the couple were spotted leaving the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles.
Following their exchange of vows, the blushing bride confessed to Hello! magazine that she was aware of the baby’s presence during their big day.
She told the publication: ‘I was aware throughout our wedding day that there were three, not two, of us experiencing it together.
‘The baby is able to hear now and it was lovely to think he or she could have been listening to us making our vows.
‘When the harpist started to play, I could feel him or her moving around.’
The news came after Abi, who previously enjoyed dalliances with David Walliams, footballer Lee Sharpe and actor Marc Warren, revealed she was ‘ready to be a mum’, in light of her engagement.
‘I’m engaged to the love of my life and I’m ready to be a mum,’ she said in an interview with The Sunday Mirror.
Abi went on to say: ‘Having children has always been really important to me.’
She has also appeared in film Girls After Dark, where she played the character of Loretta Berman – a mysterious character whose path intertwines with a Silicon Valley Private eye, Clyde Cooper. He is hired to try and hunt down a missing woman, who has mysteriously vanished.