Polanski tells court he did not seduce woman after wife's murder

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mr Polanski, 71, who refuses to travel to Britain because he faces extradition to America over a conviction for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, gave his evidence by video link from his home in Paris.

At the peak of the sexual revolution of the Swinging Sixties, in August 1969, Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant, and three friends were stabbed to death by members of the evil hippie cult known as the Manson Family. An article 33 years later in Vanity Fair said the Polish-born director had stopped in a New York restaurant while on his way back from London to California for his wife's funeral. The report said Mr Polanski's arrival at Elaine's, a restaurant frequented by Hollywood celebrities, had drawn gasps from diners.

The magazine said that without being invited, Mr Polanski walked over to a "beautiful'' Swedish woman and her companion and sat down between them. It claimed "he slid his hand inside her thigh and began a long and honeyed spiel which ended with the promise, 'I will make another Sharon Tate of you'.''

Mr Polanski denied the allegation, describing it as an "abominable lie" which showed "callous indifference" to his wife's murder. The director, whose films include Frantic, Chinatown and The Pianist, said that not only had he not behaved in such a way but he thought it was impossible to find a man who could. He said: "It never happened at all."

Condé Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair, has conceded that the alleged incident did not happen two days after the murders but says it was in the same month. Vanity Fair's editor, Graydon Carter, was in the High Court yesterday. Tom Shields QC, counsel for Condé Nast, suggested that Mr Polanski's attitude towards sex showed that he was indeed capable of such a seduction even weeks after his wife's murder.

In his evidence, Mr Polanski admitted that this was a time of free love and that within his four-year relationship with Tate he had been unfaithful several times. John Kelsey-Fry QC, counsel for Mr Polanski, asked the jury to consider the prevailing climate of the time. He said: "It was a time of revolution, make love not war, pot-smoking hippies and free love." He also said Mr Polanski's "libertine'' nature was not on trial.

But the director confirmed that within four weeks of his wife's murder he was leading an active sex life and had sex with more than one woman at a time. But he said in the weeks and months after the murder he was in " immeasurable shock". He said some people may have sought solace in drugs and alcohol or time in a monastery, "for me it was sex".

The plaintiff was then asked by Mr Shields to define what he meant by casual sex and he answered: "Casual sex is sexual relations without any emotional involvement ... in the swinging Sixties, during the sexual revolution just two persons who enjoyed sex and did not need to see themselves any more."

He said he had enjoyed casual sex for many years and could not form a lasting relationship with a woman after Tate's death.

Mr Shields then pressed him as to why he had fled America after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s. Mr Polanski said that this was wrong and that he did not seek to condone his actions but made it clear that he left America because he had been led to believe that the judge in the case had indicated that he would receive a probation order but then changed his mind so that he would be sentenced to prison.

Mr Shields said it was an irony while he was a "fugitive from justice" in America he was now seeking help from the courts in Britain: "You are a fugitive from morality, from moral standards." Mr Polanski retorted: "You are putting it in a grotesque way.''

Mr Polanski admitted that he may have been at Elaine's in August 1969 but he said the only occasion he could remember was a visit with the actress Mia Farrow. She is expected to appear at the High Court today. The case continues.