What Really Happened When Annabel Newton Met Peter Stringfellow’s England Rugby Team
SHOCK new son the cover of the Times that after England rugby union players James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley, were encouraged by the Rugby Football Union to pay Annabel Newton, the chambermaid they belittled, NZ$30,000 in return for her silence. They refused. So. Annabel Newton sold her story.
What went on away from the pitch during England’s World Cup debacle is proving to be far more interesting than what went on during the games. Like most of the England team, English people saw the tournament as an irrelevance, a backdrop to drinking and larking about with booze and birds. Team England behaved exactly as you’d expect a bunch of Englishmen men to behave overseas.
As for Newton’s story, police investigated and found her accusations to be unfounded.
But what really happened. Well, the Times has seen the leaked RFU reports.
The facts are:
* The RFU paid Ms Newton’s legal fees and for a bunch of flowers.
*The three players felt they had been “screwed over and hung out to dry” by the RFU.
* Three years earlier in Auckland four England players had found themselves falsely accused of rape.
* A players states: “Next thing we know the woman has bowled straight into the room without even knocking. She’s laughing, A[shton] and D[ylan] say she can’t just come barging into his room. D has no shirt on but does have shorts and towel as is about to have shower after training.”
This does not tally with the earlier version we read in the tabloids:
* Haskell throws Newton’s walkie-talkie into the wardrobe.
* “Then H[askell] says we’ll give it back, but first we want chocolate. D tries to shut them both up and tells the girl the walkie-talkie is in the cupboard and to take it. This is all on film. The girl then records a message for the camera about the car Dylan bought before going downstairs laughing and joking with other players about what happened. No hint of upset.”
The paper adds:
Ms Newton then went out on the same evening, got drunk, fell off a bar stool and was detained in hospital. She told her mother she had been drinking because she had been traumatised by the incident.
* A complaint was then made and investigated by the hotel manager, the RFU and local police.
* A player is again quoted in the RFU report: “We had the law laid down to us and were criticised in front of the team in a meeting and that was fair enough. We felt awful that we had let the boys down through creating unwanted headlines. The girl had claimed we were half naked, intimidated her, tried to trap her in the room, that x had grabbed her by the hips . . . She also told her lawyer that she had it all on video, but retracted this when we said that was great because we too had the whole incident on video so we could prove she was lying.”
The paper writes:
Police decided there was no case to answer and that an apology had been made. Even then the RFU left the players alone in a room with Ms Newton to make the apology. The outstanding problem was the threat of a story being sold by Ms Newton who had approached a lawyer, Jenny Beck, to act on her behalf. Negotiations between Mr Beck and the RFU continued, with the players unaware of developments until two and a half weeks later in Auckland.
* The unnamed player continues: “Then two days before the Scotland game [on October 1], Will Chignell, [the England media manager] says, ‘You’ve got 24 hours to decide whether to settle with the girl for NZ$30,000 or not.’ Paying the money seemed to be the advice. Another option wasn’t really given. We refused to pay because we hadn’t done what she claimed we had done, and if we paid it it would be an admission of guilt, to something we didn’t do. So we went to find our own lawyers in NZ because we felt the RFU QC [Richard Smith] was interested in defending the RFU’s reputation, rather than ours.”
Newton’s lawyer, Jenny Beck, writes to Karen Vleck, the RFU’s legal officer:
* “Great pressure is being placed on Annabel to talk and financial incentives have also been offered. I have advised her she has a valid claim for sexual harassment that she could take to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Now is the time to negotiate. It will hopefully be apparent to you that she would prefer to reach an accommodation with you rather than a newspaper.”
This is ugly.
* “Annabel proposes settling this matter . . . if she is paid NZ$30,000 in settlement of the claim against the players who sexually abused her.”
They refuse. She sells her story.
* Haskell and Ashton were fined £5,000 by RFU head wonk Rob Andrew for breach of conduct, suspended until the end of next year. Hartley was exonerated.
It’s an unedifying story, and adds to the impression of a divided, poorly managed England camp.
It’s was all like a Stag do. If England are looking for new sponsors keen to associate themselves with cocky pissed-up pillocks, it should look to Stringfellows. Make Peter Stringfellow the head of marketing at the RFU – you know it makes sense…