Rickards denies kidnapping and indecent assault

By Patrick Gower

Suspended police Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards is accused of standing over a handcuffed 16-year-old girl while she was sexually violated with a whisky bottle.

The details were made public for the first time yesterday as Rickards and former policemen Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum went on trial in the High Court at Auckland after pleading not guilty to kidnapping and indecently assaulting the girl 23 years ago in Rotorua.

The case - in which the complainant has name suppression - was discovered by detectives investigating the Louise Nicholas rape allegations on which the trio were acquitted by a jury last year.

Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh told the court how the girl was in a consensual sexual relationship with Shipton when she was taken to a house in Rotorua where the men and two others she also thought to be police officers were drinking.

Mr Zarifeh said she was handed a drink and the men implied they were going to have sex with her, which she refused.

Shipton then said something like "she wasn't going to go willingly" and she was picked up and taken to a bedroom struggling and screaming. Shipton allegedly straddled the girl - who was about 1.52m in height and weighed around 50kg - and passed some handcuffs to either Rickards or Schollum, who were standing on either side.

The other two men were also in the room with one of them pacing about.

Mr Zarifeh said the girl was told "not to fight it" as her underwear was forcibly removed and an indecency was performed using what she thought was the whisky bottle they had been drinking from.

Mr Zarifeh said the girl was in agony and screaming for it to stop when Schollum said, "She's had enough".

The other men left the room while Schollum stayed behind and told her not to say anything as she lay curled up and crying.

She then dressed, left the house on foot, but did not make a complaint, the court was told.

Some days later Schollum approached her again and asked her out. That was her last contact with any of the accused.

Mr Zarifeh said the girl had met Shipton, then in his mid-20s, while working at a business frequented by police from the Rotorua station and also saw him at the Cobb & Co bar. She had been flattered by his attention and started to see him in a relationship that mainly involved him picking her up in a car and taking her to have sex at a spot beside Lake Rotorua.

Mr Zarifeh said that before the attack Shipton had suggested his friend Bob could become involved in their sexual liaisons, but the girl refused. He said Schollum once turned up at her mother's house and she refused the suggestion, and again on another occasion when Shipton and Schollum took her to the spot beside the lake, also before the attack.

In a brief opening statement, John Haigh, QC, for Rickards, said his defence was simple: "There was no incident ... He did not know this woman before the incident, he did not know her after and he does not know her today."

Rickards, whose base salary is understood to be $150,000 to $159,000 a year, has been stood down since he was charged two years ago. Shipton and Schollum have left the police.

Bill Nabney, for Shipton, said he denied any such incident took place, although he admitted knowing her. Paul Mabey, QC, for Schollum said his client also denied involvement in any such incident.

The three were acquitted last March of 20 charges, including the alleged rape, sexual violation and indecent assault of Mrs Nicholas when she was a Rotorua teenager in the 1980s. Mrs Nicholas is not one of 12 crown witnesses to be called in the present case.

The alleged victim, now 39, began giving her evidence yesterday afternoon, describing how she would be chatted up by Shipton while drinking - underage - at the Cobb & Co.

She said she was "confused" about whether he was married, because she sometimes saw him wearing a ring and sometimes he wasn't.

She remembered Shipton as "very confident", Schollum as more friendly and Rickards as a "serious, strange sort of guy".

The trial before Justice Judith Potter and a jury of eight men and four women is expected to take two weeks.

* The alleged victim was uncovered when detectives investigating the Louise Nicholas rape claims found a name and number jotted down in a police notebook at Brad Shipton's Tauranga home in July 2004.

The court heard how the notebook had two shortened versions of the woman's name with a phone number next to it.

Detectives then used old Bay of Plenty phonebooks to trace the five-digit number back to the woman's mother.

They approached the alleged victim, who made the allegations, having never before complained to the police about the incident.

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