September 5, 2019 4.39 pm This story is over 24 months old

Charity worker accused of sex attacks on elderly women

“They sat down in the lounge and he rubbed her leg, laughing as he did so, before putting his hand up her skirt and inside her knickers”

A Royal British Legion worker stands accused of carrying out sexual assaults on vulnerable women he was supposed to be helping with their problems.

Michael Furniss, a former RAF serviceman, is alleged to have made lewd comments to women, some of whom were in their 60s, in his voluntary role as a caseworker visiting clients who asked the RBL for assistance.

Jeremy Janes, prosecuting, told the jury at Lincoln Crown Court that Furniss, 61, carried out a sex attack on one woman after visiting her home to give her advice.

“She says he visited her home. They sat down in the lounge and he rubbed her leg, laughing as he did so, before putting his hand up her skirt and inside her knickers. Ultimately he put his fingers in her vagina. She froze.

“As he was going to leave he rubbed and squeezed her breasts and went to kiss her with his tongue but wasn’t able to get his tongue in her mouth. He left laughing.”

Mr Janes told the jury that on another occasion Furniss went to the home of a recently widowed woman to discuss the plans for her husband’s funeral.

“He took it on himself to make suggestive comments about her sex life and went to kiss her. She tried to divert his attention and asked if he wanted a coffee. He said ‘cuddles before coffee’.

“In the lounge he took hold of her hand and three or four times asked for a cuddle. He asked her if she missed it, meaning sex.

“As he was leaving he grabbed her towards him and kissed her putting his tongue in her mouth. He parted by saying ‘what have you done to me’.

“The next day he asked to come round for a coffee. She contacted the police.”

The prosecutor said that an investigation resulted in more women coming forward. One woman, who had asked for assistance with obtaining furniture and carpets, was visited by Furniss.

Furniss, the jury was told, hugged the woman and on a later occasion tried to kiss her but she pushed him away.

Another woman complained Furniss hugged her without her consent and made lewd comments asking if she had a man in her life.

Mr Janes said: “The defendant was working for the Royal British Legion on a voluntary basis from 2010 until his suspension following the investigation into his alleged behaviour against these four women.

“He would visit the women. He would ostensibly be there to help them. He went round to offer help.

“He would abuse his position of trust and press home his interest sexually in these women. He would say lewd things to them.

“He would give them hugs and on occasion, he would touch them in a way that could only be described as sexual. He says no such things happened.

“Each and every one of these complainants had a degree of vulnerability. On these occasions, he took advantage of that vulnerability.”

Furniss, 61, of North Hykeham, Lincolnshire, denies one charge of assault by penetration and five charges of sexual assault.

The charges involve four different women aged between 50 and 70 and relate to the period between 2013 and 2017. He denies any of the incidents happened.

The trial continues on Monday.

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