Body Shop wins back branches

BODY SHOP yesterday won back control of six of its branches in the South-east after a High Court judge was told that the franchise- holder became involved with a religious sect, comparing herself to God and Body Shop to Satan.

Sir Peter Pain, handing back the branches at Maidstone, Bromley, Canterbury, Romford and two at Croydon to Body Shop, referred to the 'curious' way Pauline Rawle, 50, began to behave after becoming involved in the Victory Church.

In May this year she began to take considerably more personal control of the shops than she had in the past.

'There were a number of meetings of managers and other staff and during the course of those meetings she acted very strangely indeed,' the judge said.

She insisted on staff attending 'mystic violence courses' run by the church and told staff at one meeting that they had all been sexually abused before they were three years old.

'She told staff they must have nothing to do with the Body Shop representatives,' the judge added. 'She said Body Shop was responsible for a conspiracy against them (the staff). At one stage she compared herself to God and the Body Shop to Satan.'

Sir Peter said matters came to a head when Mrs Rawle dismissed more than 50 of her staff, alleging they were disloyal to her, and closed her shops.

The judge granted Body Shop, which has issued a writ claiming pounds 340,000 from Mrs Rawle in respect of products supplied, an injunction removing her from control of the six branches.

After the hearing, Mrs Rawle denied comparing herself to God and Body Shop to Satan. She said she wanted time to think before she commented more fully on the judgment.