Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Mall masseur went 'beyond acceptable bounds', court told

Cunbin Zhang hides his face as he heads into the Christchurch District Court today. Photo / APNZ
Cunbin Zhang hides his face as he heads into the Christchurch District Court today. Photo / APNZ

Four women will take the stand this week to say that a male mall masseur's touching went "beyond acceptable bounds".

Cunbin Zhang, 59, denies rubbing breasts, touching pubic areas, inner and upper thighs, pulling nipples and touching women's bottoms.

At the start of his Christchurch District Court jury trial today, and with the assistance of a Mandarin language interpreter, he pleaded not guilty to 17 charges of indecent assault.

Prosecutor Anselm Williams told the jury that Zhang had been employed as a part-time masseur for two Chinese therapeutic massage parlours.

Four female victims came forward after massages went "beyond acceptable bounds".

"They say it was indecent," Mr Williams said.

Zhang, the Crown says, had no formal training and appeared to have limited experience.

He was given some training and made aware of what was appropriate areas to touch and what was off-limits.

The alleged offending was first brought to police attention by a woman who went for a massage on December 7, 2012.

While lying face down, Zhang started by rubbing her back, before she claims he pulled her knickers off.

The stunned woman said she "froze".

The Crown claims he then "pulled her buttocks apart".

He repeatedly massaged her legs and tried to pull them apart, she said.

When he touched her breasts, she asked him not to but he just got more oil and touched her pubic area, the court heard.

"She told him, 'No, no, no'. He grabbed one of her breasts and tried to massage it," Mr Williams said.

After the incident, she went to police who put out a public statement asking if anyone else had concerns with a massage they had recently had, to come forward.

Three more women came forward and relayed similar stories.

One of them claimed Zhang was "breathing heavily and laughing" as she was inappropriately touched.

All four of the female victims will give evidence during the trial, expected to last all week.

Defence counsel Penny Brown told the jury there were three issues they had to consider: whether the touching occurred the way the victims said it had, whether it was Zhang giving the massages, and if the touching was indecent or whether it was part of the full-body traditional Chinese massage service.

The trial, before Judge Stephen O'Driscoll continues.


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