August 2022

Paedophile who wooed girl with Savage Garden hit loses rape conviction appeal

A parcel deliveryman who groomed a 13-year-old girl by singing Savage Garden hit To the Moon and Back has lost the chance to appeal his rape conviction.

Geoffrey Cornwall, now 57, was jailed for nine years at Oxford Crown Court last May after jurors found him guilty of raping a papergirl in the mid-1990s.

The older man, then aged 32, was said to have initially met his victim when she took over her brother’s paper-round and started delivering newspapers to the Oxfordshire house Cornwall shared with his then wife.

He came up with a pet name for the girl – ‘Nectar’ – and she developed a crush on him, she said. After he kissed the child, she said Cornwall told her that nobody could know about whatever happened between them until she was 16. She thought he was going to leave his wife so they could ‘be together’ when she was older. 

She enjoyed the ‘attention’ of an older man. The girl said Cornwall had sung the Savage Garden hit To the Moon and Back, which first hit the charts in September 1997 and features the lyrics ‘I would fly you to the moon and back if you’ll be my baby’. 

She told detectives in 2018, when she first reported the allegations, that they first had sex in her bedroom. She had been embarrassed by the ‘childish’ décor, but got the impression that Cornwall had enjoyed it.

Cornwall had checked ‘do you want to do this?’ before they first had intercourse. She ‘didn’t feel very ready’, she said, but agreed to his request as she wanted to ‘look grown up’. 

He later raped in a Amtrak Express Parcels work van and in a field. 

Last year, jurors found Cornwall guilty by a majority of 10 to two of raping the girl – relating to the first time the pair had intercourse. He was acquitted of subsequent alleged rapes in his van and the field, while they were unable to reach verdicts on other allegations of indecent assault.

Cornwall, of Witham, Essex, had denied any wrongdoing – claiming his victim and his ex-wife had made up the allegations against him

On Tuesday, his lawyers went to the Court of Appeal to seek permission for him to appeal his conviction.

Michael Magarian QC said the jury’s conviction on the first rape was ‘inconsistent’ with their acquittal of him on the other counts. 

The judge should have dismissed the first rape count half-way through the trial as on the girl’s account Cornwall had asked the girl whether she had consented, the barrister argued. He said there was ‘no evidence of grooming’ to seduce the victim and have sex without her consent.

Cornwall’s lawyers complained that the judge erred in her legal directions, which warned the jury to put stereotypes of victims of sexual offences out of their minds and said the Crown was not required to provide corroborative evidence.

Delivering the panel’s judgement, Lord Justice Fulford said the three judges disagreed with Mr Magarian’s characterisation of the ‘inconsistent’ jury verdicts as a ‘complete mess’. 

“It is entirely possible that this was a careful jury who scrupulously reviewed the evidence,” the appeal judge said. 

Turning to the suggestion that Cornwall had ‘checked’ his victim was content to have sex, Lord Justice Fulford said: “Essentially, it is suggested this was the end of count one [rape]. 

“This is, with respect to Mr Magarian, an unrealistic submission in that grooming can include securing apparent consent [or] a statement of consent which doesn’t involve real consent, which the defendant knows isn’t real consent or is reckless…given the entirety of the circumstances. 

“This can simply reflect a particular and skilful form of grooming in that securing a form of agreement makes it less likely a person will make a complaint.”

He said the judge’s legal directions were ‘entirely appropriate’ and reflected ‘the present state of the law’. 

The appeal was dismissed.