A FORMER sports coach from Ipplepen has denied grooming and abusing a teenaged girl who he trained during the 1990s.
Brian Furneaux, 65, told a jury at Exeter Crown Court that the girl had developed an interest in him but that he had not had any sexual contact with her.
He said he sent her a Valentine’s card because he was worried that she would complain to his wife or to the sporting authorities if he did not ‘appease her’.
Furneaux said he was shocked when he was arrested in 2021, 25 years after the girl had ended their friendship and told him she had a boyfriend of her own age.
He was a building worker who worked as a specialist sports coach in schools and leisure centres around Newton Abbot and who used to take some of his students to trials to play for Devon.
He was in his late 30s or early 40s at the time and had a family of his own with a wife, a daughter and two stepchildren. He said he never had any sexual interest in the girl but had not known how to react to her flirtatiousness.
He denied taking part in sex acts with her in his car on Little Haldon Hill and on Dartmoor and having sex at a house which where he was doing building work.
Furneaux denies nine counts of indecent assault and two of rape, all against the same complainant when she was aged 14 to 16.
The girl has told the jury that he groomed her by complimenting her and putting his hand on her shoulder or patting her bottom when she started training with him at the age of 13.
She said it progressed to heavy petting and various sex acts in his car or other venues by the time she was 15 and they went on to have full sex. She said he raped her twice on occasions when she said no.
Furneaux said the girl had started asking him sexually charged questions while he was giving him lifts and then became increasingly flirtatious. He said he made the mistake of humouring her rather than breaking off contact.
He said he had never had any sexual contact with her and was horrified at her accusations.
He said: ‘When I was arrested, I was completely in shock about the allegations. My shock was absolute.
‘I have never had any kind of sexual relationship with her. When she asked flirty questions, I tried to laugh it off.
‘I guess I was flattered by her attention and on occasions I enjoyed her company. When she was over the top I’d tell her she was a real pain.’
He said he forged a sicknote for school in the name or the girl’s father and sent her a Valentine’s because she pressured him to do so. He said the wording of one of his notes was like something out of Mills and Boone.
He said: ‘I did it because I was stupid and should not have done it but I gave in. I was scared she would contact my family or the sports body. I did it to keep her appeased.
‘At the end she said she had met someone else and didn’t need me any more. I felt so relieved. I was upset by the whole thing. I was ridiculous and stupid in allowing myself to get into it.’
The trial continues.