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Ex BBC reporter gives statement on alleged fashion sex assault

Ex BBC reporter who claims she was sexually assaulted by Elite model agency boss Gerald Marie while working undercover for Donal McIntyre show in 1998 gives statement to French police

  • Lisa Brinkworth says she was assaulted by model agent Gérald Marie in 1998 
  • Marie faces assault allegations from 13 women across the 1980s and 1990s 
  • Ms Brinkworth is now helping French police in their investigation into Marie 

A former BBC journalist who claims she was sexually assaulted while working undercover as a model has given a statement to police.

Lisa Brinkworth, 53, posed as a model in a documentary for the Donal McIntyre Investigates series in 1998 and alleges she was assaulted by one of the world’s biggest agents Gérald Marie. 

French prosecutors revealed last year they were investigating allegations of rape and sexual abuse made against former agency boss Marie.

The claims, which Marie has strenuously denied, were made by 13 women — four of whom are British.

They say they were assaulted during the 1980s and 1990s while working with Marie, the former European head of Elite.

Former Daily Mail journalist Lisa Brinkworth (left), 53, who claims she was sexually assaulted by one of the world’s biggest modelling agents Gérald Marie (right) while working undercover as a model has given a statement to police

Ms Brinkworth told the BBC: ‘I would very much like to see justice for them. And particularly because they were just so young and powerless at the time.

‘When it happened to me I was much older, I was working as a journalist, but when I think about them, at 16 or 17 in some cases, and completely powerless on their own with him, that’s what gives me the drive to carry on.’

Ms Brinkworth says she was assaulted after a dinner with friends and Marie, when he pinned her down to a chair at a club

Marie issued a statement through his lawyer saying he ‘refutes with dismay these false and defamatory allegations.

The statement said: ‘He shall be withholding his eventual statements until speaking to the competent authorities.’

Ms Brinkworth alleges she was assaulted after a dinner with friends and Marie, when he pinned her down to a chair at a club.

Her colleague Mr McIntyre and others witnessed the assault but she did not report it at the time because it would have threatened her investigation, she said.

She said she was ‘directed not to’ at the time and she did not ‘question that wisdom’.

Ms Brinkworth said: ‘In retrospect, I wish I had. It’s only recently when I decided to look at this again, and I started to investigate and I started to revisit this, and women were prepared to speak out.’ 

Elite Models sued the BBC after it released the documentary in 1999 and reached a settlement in which the broadcaster agreed not to air it again.

Ms Brinkworth said she feels ‘responsibility’ to the other girls who were allegedly assaulted and the settlement ‘sort of halted progress’.

All the claims have now exhausted their statute of limitation under French law but Ms Brinworth’s lawyer Anne-Claire Lejeune is arguing the fact she was prevented from seeking justice at the time means the statute should be paused. 

The claims, which Marie (pictured centre, with models during the Elite Agency fashion show at The Palace as part of Paris Fashion Week in 1996) has strenuously denied, were made by 13 women — four of whom are British

Businessman Omar Harfouch, who has worked with the agency, began assisting French authorities with their investigation earlier this year and has shed light on the culture he claims to have witnessed, according to the Sunday Times.

Mr Harfouch, who worked with Elite over three years, told the newspaper: ‘I explained to the police, to help them in their investigation, how it worked.

‘Gérald [Marie] and a few bookers from the agency had a board where they would write down who slept with the most women. The criteria for this competition was their ages.

‘The younger they were, the more points, and the more virgins, the more points. At the end of each fashion week, they would compare their exploits.’

Harfouch, whose relationship with the agency ended acrimoniously, described Marie as a ‘sexual predator’ and said he often used ‘vulgar’ language when speaking about women. 

Lebanese businessman Omar Harfouch has said he is helping detectives with the investigation and described Marie as a ‘sexual predator’ who used ‘vulgar’ language to talk about women

Ms Brinkworth told the Times she was ‘so grateful’ that Harfouch has spoken out and urged other executives to do the same.

American model and former face of Calvin Klein Carrie Otis, 51, has also accused Marie of raping her when she was 17 while working in Paris.

The former face of Calvin Klein first spoke out about her experience in an explosive memoir in 2011.

A spokeswoman for Elite World Group, which owns Elite’s European agencies told the newspaper: ‘Gérald Marie has never worked at Elite World Group. We find these alleged criminal acts egregious and abhorrent.’ 

Elite is now made up of two companies with US and European arms. Marie worked for the European company up to 2010.

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