Mentally ill Conran son detained for sex attack

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A son of the restaurateur Sir Terence Conran was ordered to be detained indefinitely in a mental hospital yesterday after a "terrifying" sex attack on an American tourist.

Ned Conran, 31, who was said to have suffered with untreated mental illness for 15 years, "appeared crazy" as he groped the woman during a prolonged assault.

With his mother, Lady Caroline, and half-brother, Jasper, the fashion designer, nearby, Conran showed no reaction as the judge said: "This is almost as serious a case of indecent assault as can be imagined ... because of the accompanying violence and the fact that the incident, terrifying as it must have been, lasted in my opinion for at least 10 minutes."

Brendan Kelly, for the prosecution, told Blackfriars Crown Court in London that the victim had flown to London from her New York home just 24 hours before the attack. She was staying with her "best friend" and planned, after a few days' sightseeing, to travel to India.

A few hours before the ordeal she, her friend and some others enjoyed a few hours in a pub before moving on to Woody's night club in Westbourne Park.

Once there, they were allowed into the VIP lounge where Conran, a landscape artist and sculptor, was sitting.

The barrister said Conran began talking to the woman and eventually invited her to join him for a walk and a cigarette.

She agreed and to begin with the conversation was "light-hearted". She took a photograph of him.

Conran then tried to kiss her. She rejected his advances, and walked off. But Conran followed and grabbed her arm, a hold he kept until one or two nearby skateboarders forced him to let her go.

The woman then returned to her friends in the nightclub, only to leave once more a short while afterwards to buy some film for her camera.

It was then that the assault took place. To stifle his victim's screams, Conran first tried to shove a handful of grass into her mouth, and then throttled her until she lost consciousness, the court was told.

A cyclist heard the screams, went to investigate and forced Conran to flee. He was arrested two days later.

He told police that he had swapped his multi-coloured shirt with a friend outside the park "in an attempt to raise the possibility for there to be another suspect".

Judge Martineau said that, but for the cyclist's arrival, "goodness knows how this incident might have ended".

"Towards the end of it you throttled her, no doubt to stop her screams, and did so so forcefully that she blacked out and lost consciousness."

Conran, of Cromwell Road, west London, pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault on 22 August last year.

The victim, 31, listened with her parents from the packed public gallery, as the judge said that in deciding the appropriate sentence he had to take into account the fact that the assault was not the first time Conran's mental problems had resulted in him targeting a woman. In 1991 in New York, Conran carried out a "minor" indecent assault on one of his wife's friends, the court heard.

The judge said Conran's history, together with the fact that long-standing alcohol and drug abuse could undermine his ability to continue taking medication that had significantly improved his mental health, showed that he posed a serious risk to the public.

He said: "While I take the view here that the risk is low or small, the harm that would be caused if the risk materialised would be very serious indeed."

For that reason, said the judge, he had decided to ignore the views of both defence and prosecution psychiatrists who did not believe it was necessary to make a Section 41 order under the Mental Health Act 1983. He said Conran should be confined indefinitely in a secure mental hospital.

Conran was ordered to pay £3,500 in prosecution costs.