Ex-West Ham star Manuel Da Costa on trial for sexual assault

Former West Ham star Manuel Da Costa sexually assaulted a woman in a nightclub as she desperately tried to flee, a court heard today (Mon).

The 25-year-old defender then punched his victim in the face twice when she demanded he leave her alone, it is alleged.

Da Costa targeted his victim in Faces, Gants Hill, in the early hours of October 17 last year, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Sonya Saul, prosecuting, told jurors the 20-year-old woman had ended up at the Cranbrook Road nightspot after drinking with a group of four friends in Romford the previous evening.

“The evening passed without incident until 2am,” she said.

“The woman had been sitting in one of the booths, talking to someone she knew, and went to find the rest of her friends.

“As she walked through the club, a man she didn’t know and he never seen before grabbed her hand.

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“She pulled away and as she did so the man grabbed her crotch area and grabbed her breasts.

“She demanded to know what he was doing and pushed him in the face. She told him to go away and not to touch her.”

Da Costa reacted by striking her in the face and the pair had to be separated by one of his friends, the court was told.

“When she complained to this man, Manuel Da Costa punched her again,” said Ms Saul.

She added: “He had no reason and absolutely no right to touch her in that way - it is as simple as that.”

Da Costa was forced to leave the club and the woman reported the incident at Romford police station soon after, jurors heard.

He was arrested on October 19 and made no comment in police interviews and was charged on January 19.

Da Costa arrived at Upton Park in August 2009 on a three-year contract, but left in June this year to play for Lokomotiv Moscow.

He previously played in France for AS Nancy and in Holland for PSV Eindhoven and has been capped 22 times by Portugal at under-20, under 21 and under-23 level.

Jurors heard Da Costa, of Wards Wharf Approach, Silvertown, east London, has admitted common assault, but denies sexual assault.

The trial continues.