17th November, 2021 8:02 am
An aristocrat whose family seat was the setting for Brideshead Revisited sexually abused a girl visitor and was accused of attempting to rape a woman 20 years later.
Simon Howard, 65, whose family are the custodians of Castle Howard, attacked the girl at the gatehouse where he lived with his wife in the 1980s.
A brain injury meant he was not fit to stand trial but after a trial of facts, a jury found he had sexually assaulted the girl and incited her to commit an act of gross indecency. Howard, 65, was given an absolute discharge at York crown court yesterday.
Howard invited the girl, who was six or seven at the time, into his bed while his then wife was out seeing to their horses, the court was told.
When the girl’s mother confronted Howard and his wife about the incident, he denied anything sexual had happened.
After the victim contacted police in 2018, Howard admitted that the girl had been in his bed alone with him but said that it was large and it was not unusual to have children playing on it.
A charge of attempting to rape a young female visitor to the castle three times in the early 2000s was left on the court file after prosecutors said it was not in the public interest to proceed with the case.
The woman said she woke to find Howard standing over her. He attempted to rape her, pursuing her from the bedroom to a bathroom, she said.
The following day when leaving Castle Howard, she claimed to have written in the guest book: “Thank you for having me.” She claimed Howard read the note and joked: “Shouldn’t that say thank you for NOT having me?”
Howard, a former high sheriff of North Yorkshire, had run one of Britain’s grandest stately homes for more than 30 years. It featured in the television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited and the Netflix series Bridgerton.
He married Annette, Countess Compton, the former wife of the Marquess of Northampton, in November 1983. They announced their separation in 1999.
Two years later he married Rebecca Sieff, the Marks & Spencer heiress who was reported to have fallen in love with Castle Howard while watching the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited aged 14.
Shortly before Christmas 2014, Howard, who then had throat cancer, received an eviction order from lawyers acting on behalf of his elder brother, Nicholas, 69, who had forgone running the estate to concentrate on a failed attempt to become a pop star.
Nicholas’s new wife, Victoria Barnsley, 66, a former chief executive of the publishing giant HarperCollins, was later installed as chatelaine. The estate is jointly owned by the brothers.
The following year the estate raised £12 million selling works including Roman antiquities and Old Masters from what Sotheby’s described as “among the finest private art collections in the world”.
Simon Howard stepped down as chief executive and chairman of Castle Howard Estate Ltd in 2016. He moved five miles to a new home at Welham Hall, a manor house, and has described leaving Castle Howard as “an upheaval in all our lives”.
Howard’s family said in a statement outside court that early last year he had a brain haemorrhage after falling down stairs at his home and then contracted the coronavirus at a rehabilitation centre.
Rebecca, his wife, added: “If this case had come to court before my husband’s horrific accident last year or even while his first wife was still alive, I have no doubts at all that the outcome of these allegations would have found in his favour.”
Source: The TimesTags: child abuse, safeguarding, sexual abuse
Categorised in: News