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Thorbjørn Olesen consumed vodka and sleeping pills before BA flight, court hears 

Ryder Cup winner Thorbjørn Olesen allegedly grabbed a woman’s breast on a BA flight after drinking alcohol and taking sleeping pills, a court has heard. 

The golfer, 31, consumed two glasses of red wine with a sushi platter meal on board a private jet, one vodka and cranberry juice, champagne and prescription pills before boarding the plane from Nashville to London‘s Heathrow in 2019. 

Today a court heard how Olesen ran around the cabin ‘like a little boy’, was unable to operate the toilet door, and became verbally abusive to cabin crew when challenged.

He allegedly pushed one BA worker, kissed another’s hand before making the sign of the cross, and touching a woman’s breast.

He was eventually led back to his first-class seat, where he fell asleep, but later urinated on another passenger’s seat, the jury was told.

Olesen, of Chelsea, west London, denies sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft on July 29 2019.    

Golfer Thorbjørn Olesen (pictured outside court with his partner) allegedly grabbed a woman’s breast on a BA flight after drinking alcohol and taking sleeping pills, a trial at central London’s Aldersgate House Nightingale Court has heard

Giving evidence today, he told the jury he would never ‘consciously’ risk his career by committing a crime and has no memory of the flight after taking sleeping pills.

Asked by his barrister, Trevor Burke QC, about the allegations, Olesen said: ‘I felt absolutely horrible and I was very sorry. I could not believe what they were saying what happened.

‘I was just embarrassed and felt horrible.’

Olesen was on board the flight with other professionals including Ian Poulter and Justin Rose following the World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis when the alleged incident took place.

He said he had not slept well for weeks, having played several big tournaments, including the Open, and planned to go straight to sleep on the plane.

The golfer said he drank two beers, two glasses of red wine with a sushi platter meal on board a private jet, and one vodka and cranberry juice before boarding the flight.

And he took two melanin tablets, which he regularly uses to combat jet lag, along with two Ambien/Zolpidem pills put into his bag by his partner, Lauren Zafer, an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Olesen said he would ‘never’ have taken the pills had he known they were prescription-only or that side-effects included ‘sleep walking’ and ‘amnesia’.

He said he ‘felt fine’ as he boarded the plane and was handed a drink, adding: ‘My last memory is getting a glass of champagne and sitting down in my seat and I think I remember taking off.’

Olesen said he had no recollection of asking for a vodka and cranberry juice, drinking pink champagne from another passenger’s glass, or getting trapped in the toilet.

After taking the pills Olesen said his memory became blurred.

‘I think I remember taking off, I’m not 100 per cent sure,’ he said. 

He also denied remembering being abusive to cabin crew, touching a woman’s breast or urinating on another passenger’s seat.

‘The first thing I remember is police coming into my seat,’ he said. 

‘I felt a bit all over the place. I was very confused and I think in shock mostly.’

The Ryder Cup winner (pictured sitting on another BA flight) was on a  plane from Nashville to London Heathrow in 2019 when the alleged incident took place

The Ryder Cup winner (pictured sitting on another BA flight) was on a  plane from Nashville to London Heathrow in 2019 when the alleged incident took place

The golfer (pictured on a first class cabin in 2016) consumed vodka, champagne and prescription sleeping pills

The golfer (pictured on a first class cabin in 2016) consumed vodka, champagne and prescription sleeping pills

Olesen said his partner, with whom he has one child, later told him she had experienced incidents, including vacuuming their whole house and eating Christmas chocolates without remembering, after taking the pills for insomnia.

He said: ‘After the arrest and speaking to police, my girlfriend questioned me a lot. I told her that I took sleeping pills.

‘She started feeling a bit guilty and scared. She said you have to take one [pill].

‘She told me that she started taking one and then two after some time.

‘She told me later a couple of examples [of curious behaviour].’ 

Mr Burke asked: ‘Had you known she had some adverse reaction to the tablets would you have taken them at all?’

‘No, I wouldn’t,’ he responded.

Mr Burke explained that the golfer was running the defence of ‘automatism’. 

He said the combination of Zolpidem and alcohol could have caused Olesen to behave in the alleged way on the flight, and that he would have had no control or memory over his actions. 

The court heard that, following his arrest, Olesen lost lucrative sponsorship deals with firms including Nike, BMW, Rolex and Titleist, and was suspended from the European and World Tours.

He has temporarily been reinstated to the European Tour pending the outcome of the trial but has struggled for form and has plunged to 440th in the world rankings.

He said: ‘I think it’s been very difficult to concentrate and play when you don’t know if you have ruined your career and maybe never play professional golf again.’

Questioned by prosecutor Max Hardy, Olesen denied he was ‘in a party mood’ when he boarded the flight and said he had ‘definitely not’ taken the pills with alcohol ‘for fun’.

‘I wanted to try to sleep all the way to London. I wasn’t thinking about partying or anything,’ he told the court. 

The golfer (pictured during the second round of the World Golf Championship)  said he felt 'horrible and embarrassed' while giving evidence

The golfer (pictured during the second round of the World Golf Championship)  said he felt ‘horrible and embarrassed’ while giving evidence

Ian Poulter

Justin Rose

English golfers Ian Poulter (left) and Justin Rose (right) were also passengers on the BA flight from Nashville to London

Olesen pictured during the third round of the World Golf Championships on July 27, 2019

Olesen pictured during the third round of the World Golf Championships on July 27, 2019

Olesen said he did not know if any other golfers had any pills on the flight after a witness described a group gathered round him with ‘brightly coloured’ tablets. 

Mr Hardy asked: ‘Did you take any more pills on that flight?’

Olesen said: ‘I don’t remember, I don’t know,’ and denied that he was drunk.’

The barrister suggested: ‘It was your choice what drinks you had that day… and you chose what pills to take as well, and I suggest when you took those pills you just didn’t care about what effect they may have on you?’

Olesen replied: ‘Yes, I did care. I thought they were going to make me sleep all the way to London.’

The trial continues.


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