Former Blue Peter presenters have rallied around John Leslie with Anthea Turner, Diane Louise Jordan and Yvette Fielding taking to the stand to call him a ‘gentleman’ after he has been accused of sexual assault.
Fern Britton, who he co-hosted This Morning with in the 90s, has said she is ‘confident’ the allegation is not true.
The 55-year-old former TV presenter has denied grabbing a woman’s breasts out of nowhere at the celebrity party 12 years ago.
The alleged non-consensual touching is said to have taken place in London’s West End in 2008.
Ms Britton, who presented the ITV morning show from 1999 to 2009, said she has stood by her friend since Matthew Wright had mistakenly named Leslie as Ulrika Jonsson’s rapist that she wrote about anonymously in her 2002 autobiography.
In a written statement, she said: ‘I asked immediately if it was him.
‘He said no. I have no reason to disbelieve him and have supported him from then on. The allegations hit John very hard.’
Ex-Blue Peter presenter John Leslie today claimed that he was a ‘wounded animal’ hoping for ‘redemption’ when he went to a party where he is accused of ‘groping’ a woman following Matthew Wright’s allegations about Ulrika Jonsson’s rape in her autobiography
Former Blue Peter presenters have rallied around John Leslie with Anthea Turner (right), Diane Louise Jordan (left) and Yvette Cooper taking to the stand to call him a ‘gentleman’
She added: ‘I am confident the allegation made does not fit with the man that I know in the slightest.’
Ms Turner, 60, a TV presenter turned clean-up queen, appeared in person to give evidence in front of jurors. She presented Blue Peter from 1992 until 1994, all with Leslie.
Dressed in tartan trousers and a white blouse, she said: ‘I didn’t have a lot of confidence at the time (when I started Blue Peter).
‘I was very green. He, with open arms, welcomed me aboard.
‘John is somebody historically who always had a smile on his face, and was the most welcoming person.
‘I like to say that he’s the type of person who was brought up to share his toys. When you’re a television presenter you get two types of people. You get the person who wants to drop you in it, letting you die in front of the camera.
‘Or you get the person that is a real pal, and that is John. If you didn’t remember the question he would pick you up. We were very much a team and John is a team player.’
Ms Jordan (left) wore a white facemask for the court appearance while Ms Turner opted for a face shield
John Leslie pictured with Anthea Turner and Diane Louise Jordan way back in 1995
Ms Turner said there were ‘two Johns’, one before the Ulrika allegations, and one afterwards. She told the court: ‘Before John was just where the party was, he was the person who would give you a bear hug.
‘The worst thing he would ever do is hold you up and hug you and as he was so tall your feet would come off the ground.
‘That was John, a very confident John. Afterwards I think it’s really sad, those who are friends of John, saw this amazing person just crumple.’
She added: ‘He became very much the person who wanted to be with people he knew. He was constantly worried, where he was, who he was with and on edge. It was not the person that we all knew.’
Songs of Praise presenter Diane-Louise Jordan, 60, was the first black Blue Peter presenter in 1990. Wearing an orange, white and black plaid shirt dress she said: ‘I was feeling a lot under the spotlight, very vulnerable.
‘It was in that environment I got to know John and he’s a gentleman. He was extremely kind to me. He’s a larger than life character, always overbrimming with life in him.
Former Blue Peter presenters Diane-Louise Jordan (left) and Anthea Turner leave Southwark Crown Court after giving evidence in the trial of Leslie, who is accused of sexual assault
‘He’s just a fun gorgeous person to be around. He has that exceptional quality of deep empathy and deep kindness. I can’t describe how supportive and loving he was.’
She added: ‘I’m not really a showbizzy type person. I actually really dislike the limelight. I have lots of colleagues I know and respect. Very few of them actually come into my personal life.
‘John is a part of my personal life. He knows my husband well. We have a skiing holiday every year. John is a part of that very intimate group.
‘The reason I’m here today, I actually requested to be here today because I feel so strongly about this.
‘Even if it was my husband, or one of my brothers, if I thought they were guilty, I wouldn’t stand here supporting him.
‘I’ve never ever ever seen him behave in any way inappropriate to any woman.
‘I’m really for women’s rights. I absolutely think women should have this opportunity. I’ve never seen it with John.
‘It just doesn’t sit with the person that I know. I’d like to say what’s really upsetting me is this magnificent human being not just to have his career in the trash because of all of this.
‘He’s an exuberant lovely person. He’s like a shell of his former self. Even in recent months, he second-guesses himself because of this. It’s destroying somebody.’
Leslie, who appeared at Southwark Crown Court under his birth name of John Stott, denies sexually assaulting the woman at the even in London’s Soho in 2008. The 55-year-old presented several popular TV shows including This Morning and Wheel of Fortune
Ms Fielding, presenter of Most Haunted and other ghost-hunting shows, said she had recommended Leslie for the Blue Peter job after seeing him audition.
She was the youngest presenter at the time when she joined at 18 in 1987. Appearing via video link, she said: ‘There was this one particular time when we were filming Blue Peter in one of the locations when we would go abroad, we went to Zimbabwe and were gone for six weeks.
‘We shared a hut in the middle of the African bush for 10 days. John was incredibly gentlemanly. He would turn away every time I had to change.
‘If it was the middle of the night, and I had to go to the ladies restroom, I was scared to death of peeing in the bush and he would shine a torch.
‘He averted his eyes when I had to go to the lavatory. In all the years I’ve known John he’s been a lovely lovely person.
‘I considered him to be a brother to me. We would spend many many times going to nightclubs and going to parties and never ever in the times I’ve known John seen him behave in a disrespectful way to any woman or man.’
She added: ‘I’ve seen women going up to him and squeezing his bum in bars, and he’s been the one to pat them away.
John Leslie and Ulrika Jonsson pictured together presenting Big Breakfast back in 1993
‘He’d just laugh and move on and in fact being popular on television, he was a young handsome man, he was inundated with lots of ladies and I’ve seen them throw themselves at him.
‘He’s been a gentleman, he’s always been lovely. He’d say, hello, nice to meet you thank you very much.
‘I’ve known him in relationships and I’ve known him when he’s single and he’s always been a lovely man. I don’t believe it for a second.’
A friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she had ‘never seen’ Leslie grab a woman’s breasts.
The character statement was read out by the presenter’s defence counsel Gudrun Young.
She said: ‘I’ve never seen John behave sexuallly inappropriately. He was always ultra cautious and would keep his distance.
‘He was always paranoid because of the negative publicity about him or the false allegations about him at the time.
Former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie leaves court where he is on trial for sexual assault
‘While he was gregarious and a larger than life character, he was known to be carefully appropriate around women. His life has been ruined by false accusations.’
Former Blue Peter host Ms Turner told the court she had known Leslie since they first work together in the 1980s and the two had become close friends.
‘I know John very well and I am standing here because I know John very well.
‘I would like to mention to mention that nobody asked me to come, I wanted to be here,’ she said. ‘They do not come better than John.’
During outings to parties, said Ms Turner, not only had she never seen him behave inappropriately but he also acted to ensure her safety.
‘He would always make sure I was either in a car or on my way home or he would take me home,’ she said.
‘I am a woman, and he was always respectful, incredibly respectful with me and the team at Blue Peter, a largely female team.
‘Everyone absolutely loved him,’ said Ms Turner when asked if the allegation matched the Leslie she knew.
‘If there had been any stories I would have known and there were none.’
Ms Jordan told the court she joined the program at a ‘bittersweet’ time, after loosing her sister and taking custody of her niece.
‘I was the first black presenter of the program and at that time, that was very newsworthy.
‘I was feeling under the spotlight and very vulnerable,’ said Ms Jordan. ‘If I had one the world to describe [Leslie] is he is a gentleman. He was extremely kind with me.’
Leslie was ‘incredibly kind’ to Ms Jordan and possessed a ‘deep empathy’, jurors were told.
‘In TV you have got two types of people, those people who want to see you fail and those who want to see you win.
‘John used to go out of his way to really encourage you to win.’
Due to the schedule of Blue Peter, the presenters spent a lot of time together, often travelling, and were ‘like family’, said Ms Jordan.
‘I have never seen John behave inappropriately towards a woman,’ she said.
A statement by Leslie former This Morning co-host Fern Britton said that the two very quickly developed a ‘strong friendship’.
‘John always received a lot of attention, particularly from women and I never saw him behave inappropriately,’ said Ms Britton.
Leslie would often visit her and her husband in their house, and even do the school run by pushing their baby’s pram.
‘I was told the nature of the allegation. I can only tell the court my truth.
‘How I have found John to behave in the years I have known him, I can comfortable say the allegation does not conform with the man I know,’ he said.
Ms Ledward told the jurors to bear in mind that memories ‘fade over time’ but that doesn’t mean any of the witnesses recounting the event were lying.
‘You may have also formed the opinion that the culture at that time is that perhaps a matter such as a man grabbing a woman’s breasts wouldn’t have been taken as seriously as it might have been today or in a different context,’ she added.
The question of why the complainant took so long to report the matter might also be in their minds, said the prosecutor.
‘It is something or nothing’, perhaps you understand what she meant by that. ‘It was something, because it amounts to a criminal offence.
‘It is something because it upset her at the time. It is something because it shouldn’t have happened.
‘But also it was treated like it was nothing. She told her friend and yes, they were shocked but nobody said to report it to the police,’ she said.
‘Nobody marched him out of the door of the suite as he suggested would happen..’
Today Leslie claimed that he was a ‘wounded animal’ hoping for ‘redemption’ when he went to a party where he is accused of ‘groping’ a woman following Matthew Wright’s mistaken allegations about Ulrika Jonsson’s rape claims in her autobiography.
He claimed the TV industry is not ‘backward’ and any form of sexual assault would not have been allowed at any party.
Leslie claimed earlier in the trial that he had been made ‘reclusive’ by reports about him following journalist Wright’s allegations about Ulrika’s rape claims in her 2002 autobiography Honest, and settling with News International after the phone hacking scandal.
In 2002, Wright named Leslie live on air as the television presenter being linked to the alleged rape. Wright subsequently said he could not remember saying Leslie’s name during the show.
In a Sky One show, Wright offered John Leslie an apology. Leslie confirmed he would not sue Wright, saying: ‘I think he just made a really big mistake and unfortunately I was the one paying the price.’
Jonsson made no public comment on Leslie’s naming and did not cooperate with police over the matter. Police investigated Leslie but never charged him with the alleged offence.
On his second day in the witness box, Leslie said he did not remember attending the party but that he had gone to some events in the years that followed the dropping of indecent assault charges against him in 2003.
Speaking about the party today, he said: ‘I just felt it was a crowd of people who would have understood what I went through and whether they believed what happened or not they would’ve understood the process, understood where I was and wouldn’t judge me.
‘I felt that I was comfortable to go. On the other hand I was still a wounded animal, I was still scarred by what happened.
‘Knowing who was there, it was presenters and colleagues and producers. I was still hoping for redemption.’
He added: ‘You’d never give up hope. It was still in the back of my mind. It was still about being on best behaviour.’
When Leslie was interviewed about the case alone by police in 2008, he said ‘no comment’ other than also saying at the end that he had ‘never ever’ attacked a woman.
He told the court today: ‘I just knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, I didn’t need a lawyer. I was being interviewed. I wanted to hear what the allegation was about. Lawyers are expensive.’
Prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward said: ‘You answered no comment that you didn’t tell the police whether you’d been there. You didn’t tell them what you told us today about the paranoia and your reasons for it to be on your best behaviour.
‘You simply resolved to wait to find out whether anything would come of it rather than asking the police’s questions honesty.’
Leslie said: ‘I’ve done nothing wrong, I wanted to hear what it was. When I heard the allegation, I said I had never ever assaulted or attacked anybody.
‘I wasn’t aware of how serious the allegation was or how it was going to proceed. All I remember is asking, ‘What’s going to happen?’. The police were not going to recommend proceeding with it. I thought that was that.’
The 55-year-old was also asked whether he had ever grabbed anyone’s breasts in ‘jest’ or to ‘test anyone’s boundaries’.
The 55-year-old TV presenter has denied grabbing a woman’s breasts out of nowhere at the celebrity party 12 years ago. The alleged non-consensual touching is said to have taken place in London’s West End in 2008 (pictured with his father Les Stott)
He said: ‘There’s a line between being a gregarious character and criminal activity. I know the line and I’ve never crossed it. I’ve never touched somebody’s breasts.’
The prosecutor said it had been suggested by Leslie’s defence team that the complainant had been after ‘her own MeToo moment’, but Ms Ledward said that would require either the complainant to be lying and to have lied to the people she told at the time, or for all of them to have ‘got together and invented this story’.
The prosecutor said: ‘There are three possibilities. The first is that (the alleged victim) has made a completely false allegation.
‘The motive suggested to you on your behalf was that she was after her own MeToo story. I think that we’re clear, in general public knowledge, the MeToo movement started in 2017 and beyond.
‘It follows from that, one of two things. Either she lied around the time it happened back in 2008 to her (friends), to all of us now. Or perhaps all of these people, including (people) who have stood by you, have got together and invented this story.
‘I’m going to suggest it can only be the third possibly, which is that [the alleged victim] told the truth. Back in 2008, perhaps over-excited or with lower inhibitions because you didn’t get out much, you did exactly what she had described.
‘When she introduced herself to you, you grabbed her breasts. You judged that no one would either notice or confront you about it at the time.
‘You judged quite rightly instead of spoiling the party and being marched out tout suite, you judged that it would be dealt with discreetly and seemingly with a degree of tolerance.’
Leslie said: ‘It’s not a backward industry. We treat women fairly. People don’t go around assaulting women. It’s just not done.
‘You wouldn’t let it happen. It’s not allowed. It’s not something people would condone or allow.
‘People wouldn’t watch it and let it happen. If I had seen it I wouldn’t have let it happen. I would never do such a thing.’
Leslie, who wore a pink shirt and dark navy suit, denies sexual assault. He was supported in court by his father, Les Stott. The trial continues.