'I wasn't drunk, I just have a funny walk' - billionaire heiress tells court
A wealthy heiress convicted of being drunk in charge of a child during an alleged hotel drinking binge has been cleared after she blamed a “funny” walk for making her look inebriated.
Nicole Ovchinnikova was this summer found guilty at trial after police said she had been found staggering following a night drinking with a family friend at an East London hotel.
But the socialite fashion designer has now seen her conviction quashed after an appeal panel questioned the 37-year-old’s initial confession and said there was doubt over police evidence she had been drunk.
The former model said she had a limp after breaking her ankle last year and left the witness box to demonstrate her gait at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
She told the panel of one judge and two magistrates: “I sometimes get cramps during the cold weather and my walk is not right.
"My friends at work make fun of me and say I walk in a funny way."
Ms Ovchinnikova was given a £500 fine by Stratford magistrates in August after being arrested at The International Britannia Hotel in Canary Wharf on 2 March this year.
She arrived at the hotel at 5.30pm the previous evening with the child and a male companion, Paul Brierley, and was allegedly still drinking at 10:30am the next morning, some 17 hours later.
The court had earlier heard staff called police after they became worried about the child’s welfare.
A manager at the hotel said Ovchinnikova was staggering when he saw her in the lobby the next morning, and another employee said he thought the child had not slept all night.
She also allegedly verbally abused police officers who said they could smell alcohol on her and there were a large number of empty glasses on the table where she had been sitting.
During her earlier trial Ms Ovchinnikova said she had heard that day her former partner was having a baby with her best friend and this news made her very upset.
But she launched the appeal claiming her limp wrongly gave the impression of drunkenness and insisting she had gone to bed at 11pm. The court also heard the alcohol may have reacted badly with antibiotics she was taking.
When arrested she told police she had drunk three bottles of wine with her friend, then told the court she only had two glasses.
She told the court she was pushed into making a false confession by police.
“They would not accept the truth. They had already made their minds up,” she said.
“I really thought if I admitted everything they would let me get out.”
Mr Recorder Roger Stewart QC, overturned her conviction following a two day appeal, saying there was reasonable doubt in her guilt.
He said: “We are not satisfied that the defendant was drunk in charge of the child. We say that for three reasons.
“The police case raises reasonable doubt. In some respects the prosecution case was unsatisfactory.
“Notably the lack of detail as to the reasons they parted her from the child.
"And the lack of some material the defence requested and could expect to be made available.
"For those reasons we uphold the appeal and find the defendant not guilty.'
Ms Ovchinnikova broke down in tears as the verdict was announced and was hugged by friends in the public gallery.
She declined to comment outside the court.