In the Media

'Our rural community has shunned me': farmer's wife raped by former hunt master speaks out

PUBLISHED June 2, 2012

Jenni Southwood, who has waived her legal right to anonymity, admitted that she had drunk "an awful lot more than I normally would" on the night she was attacked by John Norrish, a 68-year-old former master of the Tiverton Staghounds.

But she condemned him as a "disgusting, vile man" and a liar.

Mrs Southwood, 33, was raped by Norrish, a married father of two and grandfather, after attending the hunt's £30-a-head summer ball last July.

Norrish was jailed for four years after being convicted by a jury in a 10 to two majority verdict at Exeter Crown Court two weeks ago.

Mrs Southwood said: "John Norrish was seen as a pillar of the community. A lot of people around here refused to believe that he would put a foot wrong.

"But he is a disgusting, vile man who lied in court. He deserved to go to jail.

"There will always be those who will say it was just two people who had too much to drink. It sickens me, but I have to live with that."

She told the Daily Mail that she became aware of rumours that were circulating in the Devon community, where husband Ian runs a 156-acre farm which has been in his family for more than 200 years.

One of the worst - reported back to her by a friend - was that she had been "running around the party all night with no underwear on", even though the trial heard that when Norrish was arrested police found her underwear still in his Toyota RAV4 vehicle, where the rape took place.

She said that she started avoiding going to community events like coffee mornings.

Her husband said members of the Tiverton Staghounds had been "absolutely gutless" with not a single person involved with the hunt approaching the Southwoods since Norrish's conviction.

Mr Southwood, 37, has now banned the hunt from crossing his land.

He revealed that members of the Tiverton Staghounds went ahead with a testimonial meet to mark Norrish's retirement last month with a dinner at a local hotel which raised £3,500 as a parting gift for the former master.

Mrs Southwood, who has a three-year-old daughter with her husband, admitted she had drunk too much on the night of the rape - nine glasses of wine and 10 vodkas.

She accepted a lift from Norrish, whom she vaguely knew, after Mr Southwood left the ball with a friend to collect their car, and she expected to be dropped off when they passed her husband on the road home.

"It never occurred to me that someone his age would try anything," said Mrs Southwood.

"I thought he would stop. But I'd had so much alcohol and to be suddenly put in this position, I couldn't function."

The couple hope that Norrish's conviction will mark a new chapter and are now considering having another child.

"It will take a long time to move on from this because of where we live, but we have to get on with our lives as best we can and try to put this behind us," Mrs Southwood said.