Donald Trump groping allegations: British retiree disputes woman's account of in-flight sexual assault

Anthony Gilberthorpe has also made unsubstantiated claims that he supplied teenagers to attend parties in the 1980s, where they were molested by Conservative MPs

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The Independent US

A 54-year-old British man has disputed the account of a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump when they sat next to each other on a flight in the 1980s.

In an interview with the New York Post, which was set up by the Trump campaign, Anthony Gilberthorpe said he was seated across the aisle from Mr Trump and his accuser, Jessica Leeds, when the alleged incident took place in the plane’s first class cabin.

Ms Leeds, now 74, told the New York Times this week that, during the flight, Mr Trump had raised the armrest between their seats and begun groping her. “He was like an octopus,” she said. “His hands were everywhere.”

But Mr Gilberthorpe claimed that not only did Mr Trump not touch Ms Leeds as she alleges, but that “it was she that was the one being flirtatious.” When Mr Trump rose to go to the loo, Mr Gilberthorpe said, Ms Leeds had confided in him that “She wanted to marry [Mr Trump].”

The 54-year-old retiree suggested he was incensed to read Ms Leeds’s story, especially her claim that “the guy in the seat across the aisle could see” as she was molested by Mr Trump. “That I sat there – eyes bulging – and not intervening is nonsense,” he told the Post.

Mr Gilberthorpe made headlines in the UK in 2014, when he claimed to have procured teenagers to attend parties during the 1980s, where they were sexually abused by several deceased Conservative party politicians. The claims were unsubstantiated and unprovable.

In rebutting Ms Leeds’s account, Mr Trump’s surrogates have also suggested that her story is fabricated because the armrests in first-class plane cabins during the 1980s did not move – a detail that has since been debunked by aviation experts.

On Friday, Mr Trump offered his own counter-argument as to why the incident never took place: because Ms Leeds was insufficiently attractive. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice,” Mr Trump told supporters at a rally in North Carolina. “That I can tell you.”

The Republican presidential nominee has also been accused of sexual assault or harassment by at least five other women in recent days, including two who came forward on Friday.