Thursday 21 November 2019

World Cup winner Ben Cohen set to testify against his mother-in-law in 'harassment trial'

Ben Cohen and Donal Og Cusack in City Hall, Dublin at the launch of an Anti-Homophobic Bullying Campaign
Ben Cohen and Donal Og Cusack in City Hall, Dublin at the launch of an Anti-Homophobic Bullying Campaign "Stand Up! Awareness Week" in 2012

The mother-in-law of Rugby World Cup winner Ben Cohen is to stand trial accused of harassing him after he split from her daughter.

Felicity Bassouls is charged with persistently emailing and phoning the former England player and Strictly Come Dancing star between September and October last year following his separation from Abby.

At the time, 36-year-old Cohen denied rumours that the marriage was ended by the "curse" of the BBC1 dancing show, which has seen celebrities' relationships end after steamy on-screen routines with TV dancing partners.

Cohen starred on Strictly in 2013 with Kristina Rihanoff, but denied they had a relationship. He wrote on Facebook at the time: "It is a sad world when two adults cannot have a friendship."

Bassouls, 67, turned up for a hearing of the case at Northampton Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, but had not been called on to attend.

A three-day trial was set down to start at Corby Magistrates' Court on August 12, with the agreement of defence lawyers and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Bassouls, of Ardross, near Alness in Highland, Scotland, is also accused of harassing her own son, Austen Blaney, with emails and phone calls, between September 1 and October 29.

 She was unconditionally bailed after the hearing.

Cohen, a former Northampton Saints player, is the founder of The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation, which aims to raise awareness of the damaging effects of bullying.

In a statement issued at the time of the split, the couple said: "Ben and Abby Cohen have agreed to take time apart to deal with some marital issues but remain fully committed to the welfare of their children.

"There is no third party involved, and Ben and Abby now ask that their privacy and that of their family be respected at this difficult time."

The couple have been married for 11 years and have twin daughters.

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