'Member of playboy set used drugs to rape me'

Woman believes group of wealthy Americans are drugging victims and then boasting of their exploits on the internet
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The Independent Online

A British PR consultant who claims she was drugged and raped after entertaining a client believes her attacker may have been a member of a ring of date-rapists in the United States whose members allegedly include one of the heirs to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune.

A British PR consultant who claims she was drugged and raped after entertaining a client believes her attacker may have been a member of a ring of date-rapists in the United States whose members allegedly include one of the heirs to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune.

Nina Richards, who has waived her right to anonymity, made her claims about the gang when she heard Andrew Luster, 36, the great-grandson of the firm's founder, was charged with serial rape. He is in custody in the United States. She believes Mr Luster and the man who raped her are both members of a gang called "The Bachelors", a gang whose members are said to drug, rape and film their assaults before swapping stories on the internet.

Mr Luster is alleged to have drugged and filmed a number of women. The 21 charges he is facing include rape with an intoxicated person, oral copulation with a victim under the influence of a controlled substance, drug possession and kidnapping with intent to rape.

So far, three women victims have been identified by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department in California, and detectives are investigating a further 12 complaints.

Becky Day, the deputy district attorney, said the inquiry would spread: "It's kind of like we have just scratched the surface." Asked about the possibility of there being an international date-rape ring, she said: "If that is the case, it does not involve Andrew Luster. We do not have any indication he is involved in a group of high-living bachelors."

Ms Richards, 33, the head of Wizard Public Relations, said she was willing to talk to US detectives if they wished to interview her and added that she was still convinced she had been raped by someone from the same gang. "I am convinced it is a group because of certain patterns. I have been told that in the videos even the clothes are lying on the floor in the same way, as well as other things I have heard about."

In November 1998, Ms Richardson spent the evening with a client, Davis Factor, another great-grandson of the founder, who she believes is Mr Luster's cousin. There is no suggestion Mr Factor was involved in the attack.

At the end of the evening the two went for a final drink to the Met bar, in Soho, where they met a group of men, one of whom knew Mr Factor.

Ms Richards said that she started to feel ill shortly after they arrived at the bar, although she was not drunk. She remembered Mr Factor leaving, she said. The next thing she recalled was waking up in a hotel room with a naked man who she said was filming her.

She said he had had sex with her and she could not resist. "When I awoke I felt heavy and tired. It was like an out-of-body experience. Things happened that I had no ability to control. She said yesterday: "He said that I consented."

According to the LA Times, Mr Luster was arrested last week on suspicion of drugging and raping a woman aged 21 from Santa Barbara, California, whom he is said to have met at a bar and taken back to his house. The woman told the police Mr Luster had served her an alcoholic drink he later claimed to have spiked with "liquid ecstasy", a slang term for a drug known as GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate. Ms Richards believes she was given the same substance.

While searching Mr Luster's home, police said they seized vials of an unknown liquid they suspected was GHB. They found photographs and home videos depicting at least five sedated or unconscious women engaged in sex acts. Detectives believe the women were victims of sexual assaults and they have charged Mr Luster with the rape of an unidentified woman on one of the videotapes.

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said detectives had travelled to the US last year, and that the investigation was being pursued. "A man was arrested in London on 26 April, 1999, but there was insufficient evidence at the time to proceed with the investigation. In the light of new evidence we would actively liaise with our US counterparts and information we receive will be fully investigated," she said.

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