| 6.9°C Dublin

Aristocrat accused of raping girl (15) claims he was having a relationship with her

AN aristocrat accused of raping a teenage girl had been having a sexual relationship with her for more than a week, a court heard today.

The Honourable James Murray, 41, the son of the Earl of Mansfield, told police he had had sex with the alleged victim "up to half a dozen" times in the eight or nine days before the attack is said to have taken place.

Oxford Crown Court has been told that Old Etonian Murray carried out the rape in June 2010 after getting the girl drunk on vodka.

She was one of a group of teenage friends who used to visit his Oxford flat to drink, smoke, play on his laptop and listen to music, the court has heard.

In a police interview read to the jury today, Murray said he had been trying to "engage" with youngsters who gathered outside his house, because there had been security problems with bicycles and post going missing.

Some of the young people, because he lived in a ground floor flat, directed their attention at him, he told police.

He developed a "soft spot" for the alleged victim, saying he felt he was offering her a "safe haven" from her home life, and he gave her a key.

She was a foster child, but would rather sleep in the park than go home.

"I became a sort of ally, and instinctively thought she was seeking an ally," he told police.

For about a week or 10 days before the alleged attack, the girl started sleeping at his house every night.

He said sex began after she had made "suggestive" noises to him on the phone.

She had not seemed very interested in contraception, and he used a condom.

The jury heard earlier from a friend of the alleged victim who said the pair were "just friends".

"I asked her, 'do you fancy him?', she replied 'no, we are just friends'," the witness said.

The day after the attack, the girl was very upset and crying and told friends that Murray kept on offering her drinks with alcohol, but she was only drinking Ribena and Coke.

"She woke up the next morning with him naked next to her," the witness said.

A toxicology report found no evidence of recently consumed alcohol in the alleged victim's urine sample but the expert warned that it was provided 19 hours after she went to bed and a considerable amount of alcohol could have been eliminated in that time.

Murray denies rape.