I'm furious I got so drunk, but I didn't deserve to be raped by that disgusting, vile man: Wife attacked at hunt ball reveals why she's angry with herself
22:32 GMT, 1 June 2012
Ordeal: Jenni Southwood is appalled with the lack of support she received after being raped by John Norrish
Jenni Southwood shudders when she recalls the night she was raped by a huntsman of the Tiverton Staghounds.
She feels anger towards the man who brutalised her. But she is also angry with herself.
Being forced to have sex with 68-year-old John Norrish after the hunt summer ball last July has been traumatic enough for the 33-year-old farmer’s wife.
But the aftermath of that terrible night — which took place just a few miles from the 156-acre Devonshire farm she shares with her husband, Ian — has been almost as bad.
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Nightmare: After her ordeal at the hands of John Norrish, pictured left, Jenni Southwood, pictured right with husband Ian, is trying to rebuild her life
Ian, a former hunt follower, is still raging about his wife’s rape and the treatment she has received outside court.
‘So many lies have been told. It’s been like Chinese whispers. We’re sick of it,’ he says.
Jenni speaks with quiet determination as she recalls the night of the attack.
She and Ian, who married in December 2002 and have a three-year-old daughter, Chloe, jumped at the chance to attend the Tiverton Staghounds summer ball on Friday, July 1 last year.
With a young daughter to care for and a busy cattle farm to manage, the 30-a-head fund-raising event, which was being held on a farm four miles from theirs, offered a rare opportunity for a night out.
Jenni, who works part-time as a customer services adviser for Devon County Council, dressed up for the occasion in a 100 black and white off-the-shoulder dress with a net underskirt. She arranged for her daughter’s godmother to babysit.
And as the sun began to set that evening, she and Ian set off by car from their home.
The evening began with a meal with friends at the 14th-century Royal Oak pub in Chawleigh, after which the landlord drove them on to the ball at Cobley Farm at around 10.30pm. Ian and Jenni had made arrangements for a shared lift home for all of them.
Leader: Norrish has become a key figure in the hunting community, and was an award-winning huntsman
The night started out perfectly. Around 400 guests mingled in a lambing barn transformed into a ballroom. There was a live band and dancing.
‘We saw so many people we hadn’t seen for ages,’ says Jenni. ‘It was brilliant fun. I was with Ian for most of the night. I didn’t leave his side.’
But by her own admission, Jenni drank an ‘exceptional’ amount that night.
According to police reports, as well as the three to four glasses of wine she had with her meal, when she arrived at the ball she drank another four to five glasses of wine as well as ten vodka and cokes.
The quantity of alcohol she consumed would come back to haunt her, not just because she was in no fit state to fight off Norrish, but because, inevitably, much of the poisonous gossip she has endured since centred on her drunkenness.
‘I don’t drink very often, but for some reason I went a bit mad,’ she says. ‘I didn’t mean to get that drunk — it was completely out of character — but I was just having fun.
‘It was an exceptional night because Ian and I so rarely go out. I drank an awful lot more than I normally would.
‘People kept handing me drinks and I lost track of how much I’d had. Do I regret it now Of course I do. But it doesn’t mean I deserved what happened.’
Guilty: Norrish leaving Exter Crown Court during the trial. The attack took place after the hunt ball last July
When their lift arrived at 1.30am, Jenni and Ian decided to stay on, optimistically believing they could manage the two-mile walk back to their car, which was parked outside their friends’ house in West Worlington.
‘But I’d been in heels all night,’ says Jenni. ‘My feet were killing me.’
In the end, Ian — who, unlike his wife, hadn’t drunk enough to prevent him from driving — decided to walk back with another friend to collect the car and return to pick up Jenni.
Meanwhile, she remained by the bar with Robert Clements, the owner of Cobley Farm and a childhood friend. Already the worse for wear, Jenni recalls how Norrish — no more than a ‘vaguely familiar face’ — appeared next to her, clutching a glass of whisky, and began chatting to her.
‘I’d got a new horse,’ she says. ‘I remember talking about how I was enjoying riding again. It was just general chit-chat.’
Among the lies that Norrish later told was that Jenni asked him for a lift and began kissing him as they crossed the field to his car.
She says she would never even have thought of accepting a lift from Norrish had it not been suggested by Robert Clements and were he not a respected member of the hunt.
‘Robert said something like: “John will take you home.” He was going to be driving along the same road that Ian was walking along with Graham. The idea was that we would meet them on the road and pick them up.’
Norrish’s age also lulled her into a false sense of security.
‘If it had been someone younger I might have suspected an ulterior motive. It never occurred to me that someone his age would try anything,’ she says.
They walked in silence towards Norrish’s silver Toyota RAV 4, parked at the other end of a field. Jenni was carrying her shoes because her feet were so painful. She shudders as she recalls what happened next.
‘I got in the car,’ she says. ‘He got in the driver’s side and straightaway he leaned over and began trying to kiss my face and my neck. I said: “What are you doing Don’t.”
His reply, she recalls, was a phrase he kept repeating over and over again: ‘You are really pretty. You are really gorgeous.’
She remembers saying ‘No’ and trying to push him away, but, as police photographs later revealed, Norrish pinned her down so hard he left fingerprint bruises on her shoulders.
‘I thought he would stop,’ she says, her head in her hands.
‘Your mind does strange things. You always wonder what you would do if you were in that situation. I always thought I’d push them off, shout at them and hit out. But I’d had so much alcohol and to be suddenly put in this position, I couldn’t function. I was thinking if I fight him — but he’s a strong man despite his age. Later on, you think: “Why didn’t I do that — or why didn’t I do this”
‘It’s almost like an out-of- body experience. You blot out what’s happening because you’re so frightened.’
In the moments that followed, as Norrish clambered on top of Jenni, he reclined her seat with a flick of the lever at the side of it.
‘He was leaning over me, breathing all over me. I was crying. I said “No” over and over again, but he didn’t stop.’
History: Norrish has already come to the attention of the courts during his time in the hunting community, including one occasion where he received a caution for assault
Having forcibly removed her underwear, Norrish raped Jenni. At this point, she believes she blacked out. Many of the most intimate details of what he did to her were only revealed by a subsequent police medical examination.
The next thing she remembers is being aware of bright lights flashing across her eyes — the beam of a car’s headlights on the other side of the field.
‘It seemed as if hours had passed, but it was only 15 minutes. Something snapped inside me. I just pushed him off. He didn’t react at all. I grabbed the door handle and opened it.’
She fell out of the car, falling hard on her lower back and ran across the field, barefoot and screaming. In court, Mr Justice Field described Norrish’s actions as a ‘grave abuse of a vulnerable woman’ adding that Jenni was ‘too drunk to exercise a free choice to events’.
But one of the rumours circulating around the villages near her home was that she had willingly indulged in drunken sex with Norrish and cried rape only when her husband arrived back at Cobley Farm to collect her.
The thought of that man and what he’d done to me — it was hard to get it out of my head. It was revolting
Ian, however, has never doubted Jenni. He is still haunted by the memory of seeing her running the 50 or so yards across the field towards his car, moments after he arrived back at the farm. ‘She was hysterical,’ he recalls, his face flushed with grief.
‘I couldn’t understand her. I knew she had drunk a lot, but I couldn’t make sense of what had happened. I’d been gone for only about 40 minutes.’
While Norrish raced off in his own car, leaving by an entrance at the far side of the field, Jenni sobbed that the huntsman had raped her.
Ian says: ‘I saw red. I just didn’t know what to do. My first reaction was to go after him, but my friend took the keys out of my car.
‘He said: “You need to get Jenni home. You need to call the police.” ’
At home, Jenni dialled 999. An unmarked police car arrived within the hour.
Through unstoppable tears and hysteria, she told police what had happened. A female officer was still interviewing her at around 8.30am when a call came to say that Norrish had been arrested with Jenni’s underwear, handbag and shoes still in his car.
While he was questioned, Jenni was taken to a special police unit in Exeter, where she underwent medical examinations and blood tests. She had to return a month later to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
‘I felt absolutely disgusting,’ she says. ‘The thought of that man and what he’d done to me — it was hard to get it out of my head. It was revolting.’
In the days and weeks that followed, Jenni lived in fear their paths would cross. Norrish’s former home at Mouseberry Farm is just two miles from Jenni and Ian’s home and can be seen from their fields.
Disgraced: Norrish had worked with the Tiverton Staghounds since 1995, but has recently retired
On one occasion, Jenni found herself in the village shop with Norrish’s wife, Angela.
Mercifully, the 65-year-old didn’t recognise her, but the encounter left Jenni shaken and reluctant to go out.
‘I was aware that people were avoiding me. They didn’t want to get involved or offer support.’
She also became aware of rumours circulating about her.
One of the worst, which came back to her via a friend, was that she had been ‘running around the party all night with no underwear on’.
She adds: ‘It was horrible to be talked about in that way. I felt embarrassed and self-conscious. I started avoiding going to coffee mornings.’
Hardest of all to cope with, however, was the reaction she and Ian faced from the hunt. ‘Not one person came down here to see us,’ says Ian. ‘They’ve been absolutely gutless.’
To add insult to injury, senior members of the Tiverton Staghounds pressed ahead with a testimonial ‘meet’ to mark Norrish’s retirement last month.
That event was attended by hundreds, as was a dinner at the Tiverton Hotel that raised 3,500 — presented as a parting gift to Norrish at the end of the evening.
‘Rubbing salt in our wounds’ is how Ian describes it. He has banned the Tiverton Staghounds from crossing his land.
Away from the scrutiny of their neighbours, Jenni and Ian’s marriage has also been under immense pressure.
‘The first couple of weeks were terribly difficult for Ian,’ says Jenni. ‘He was very stressed and couldn’t concentrate on his work.
‘But not once did he ever doubt me. He just said: “We will get him. We will sort this out.” ’
But privately Ian was tormenting himself.
‘My instinct was to go round there and throttle him,’ he says. ‘A lot of people said to me “You are a stronger man than I am,” but I wanted to do it the right way. I didn’t want to be the one on the inside with him on the outside.’
But having put his trust in the justice system, Ian lived in fear that Norrish would be found not guilty.
‘How would we have moved on from that’ says Jenni.
‘I told Ian that if he got off, I didn’t know if I could carry on living here. But we just had to sit back and trust the police and the courts to do their job.’
For a while, inevitably, the rape case also took its toll on the couple’s physical relationship.
‘For quite a few months I just wanted to be left alone,’ says Jenni.
‘But understandably Ian wanted to comfort me. I think there was a sense of wanting to claim me back as his wife too, but he’s been very patient with me.’
Poignantly, Ian speaks of the outrage he felt in court when he heard Norrish being described as a happily married man.
‘Nothing was said about how happy Jenni and I are,’ he says, reaching for his wife’s hand.
‘People need to know that before he did this to us, we were just a normal husband and wife trying to lead a normal life.’
In fact, at the time of the rape, they had been talking about trying for another baby, a decision that required serious thought because of the pelvic damage Jenni suffered during Chloe’s birth for which she has undergone several operations.
‘We had to put everything on hold,’ says Jenni. ‘It would have been too stressful to contemplate being pregnant with this hanging over us.’
Now that Norrish has been jailed, they hope to start thinking about expanding their family.
‘It would mark a new chapter,’ says Jenni.
‘It will take a long time to move on from this because of where we live, but we have to get on with our lives as best we can and try to put this behind us.’