Heiress raped before fatal coma

A man has been charged with raping a wealthy heiress shorly before she fell into a fatal coma. Although Annabel Nettleton, 21, was unable to make a formal complaint before collapsing, Scotland Yard has charged the 26-year-old man on two counts of rape.

Ms Nettleton, the eldest daughter of millionaire solicitor and company director John Nettleton, was found unconscious in a run-down house in Tulse Hill, south London, after spending the night at a well-known London nightclub.

Ambulance workers tried to revive her as she was taken to Kings College Hospital, where she remained unconscious on a life-support machine until she died two days later on 18 May.

Four people were arrested in the house on Upper Tulse Hill on suspicion of plotting to supply drugs, but three were later released without charge. In an unusual move, Zoltan Espejel, unemployed, was charged with the sex offences despite the lack of a complaint.

Mr Espejel is alleged to have attacked Miss Nettleton twice in the hours before she was found unconscious in the lounge of the house.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said yesterday: "The man has been charged with two counts of rape on a 21-year-old woman at an address in Tulse Hill. He has been remanded in custody and our investigations continue."

Ms Nettleton lived with her family in a pounds 1m Belgravia town house. Her father and mother Christine, who had waited by her hospital bed, were being comforted yesterday with with their children, Emma and Jamie, at their pounds 2m house in Newington, Oxfordshire.

In a statement on their behalf the Rev Sue Booys said: "When something like this happens to a family, any family, it is beyond description. Our thoughts are with them all."

A post-mortem found that Miss Nettleton had died from a brain haemorrhage, but there was no conclusive evidence as to its cause. She had been clubbing into the early hours at the Fridge nightspot in Brixton. Detectives investigating whether the dance drug Ecstasy was involved are awaiting the results of further tests.

Mr Espejel, of Upper Tulse Road, was remanded in custody until 8 June when he will appear before Camberwell magistrates.

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