A wealthy farmer sexually assaulted a fellow curler in the final moments of a curling bonspiel by grabbing her breast in an attempt to distract another player from playing a winning shot. George Elder, 63, of Barleymill Farm, Brodie in Morayshire, Scotland, denied the sexual assault which occurred at Inverness Ice Centre last February. But he was convicted after trial at Inverness Sheriff Court by Sheriff Chris Dickson. The court heard first from his victim who cannot be named for legal reasons. A married woman, she was participating in a match against Elder's team and her husband was about to play the final shot.
She told fiscal depute David Morton: "My husband was about to play his last shot after George, who had come alongside our team.
This was against the rules. He gave me a cuddle and said: 'Let's see if we can put him off.' Then he grabbed my breast without warning. I pushed his hand away and said: 'That's enough of that, you.'
I asked my husband if he had seen it and he said no but added: 'I am not surprised.' Then he played his stone and we won the match. I could see that another player had seen it and I went over to her to confirm it.
When I saw George in the gallery later, I told him that his behaviour was entirely inappropriate. He apologised."
Cross examined by defence lawyer John MacColl, the woman denied that it could have been an accident.
"I didn't have a problem with anyone giving me a cuddle but it was deliberate contact with my breast. It was not a matter of him putting a hand across my chest to give me that cuddle and accidentally touch my breast.
I didn't report it at first because I wanted to take some advice at first." the woman went on.
Two other players at the rink that afternoon, 18-year-old Glasgow University chemistry student Amy Macdonald and 21-year-old Elgin joiner Gregor Ewen also gave evidence and said the act was intentional.
"George came up to distract the player who was about to play the winning shot. He and the woman didn't really know each other, they were just acquaintances.
He put his hand on her chest and touched her breast. I did not see it as a joke and she didn't see the funny side of it."
Mr Ewen agreed with Mr MacColl that Elder was joking about and had had "a drink in him. He intentionally grabbed her breast as her husband was about to play a shot. He was quite angry about it but he played it anyway and won the match."
In evidence, Elder said: "If I touched her breast, I was unaware of it. I put my hand round her waist and if I did touch her breast it was accidental and unintentional. Rather than make a scene at the gallery bar, I just apologised to her.
I was stunned when the police came to my door. I told the officer that I didn't do what I was accused of."
But after the two hour trial, Sheriff Dickson rejected Elder's evidence and called for a background report on the first offender.
He then placed him on the sex offender's register. Elder will re-appear for sentence on February 12.