THE jury is out in the trial of an Ellesmere Port man accused of attempted rape.

Stephen Gratrix, 54, is charged with the attempted rape and two sexual assaults on a woman in her 30s.

The sexual assaults alleged are that Gratrix kissed the woman without her consent, and that he touched her breasts under her clothing.

The jury at Chester Crown Court had heard all the evidence on the second day of the trial on Wednesday, August 5, and had retired to consider their verdicts.

Prosecuting, Frances Willmott said the charges date back to the night of August 17, 2018, when Gratrix - who had been to the pub and met a man he knew - had gone to the garage to buy some alcohol. The two men then invited a woman at the garage back to his house.

The woman - said by the prosecution to be the victim - had gone to the garage to buy some cigarettes and was in her pyjamas, wearing a coat over them.

She accepted and the three went to Gratrix's home address, where they had a chat in the garden for about an hour around a fire pit Gratrix had recently built.

Ms Willmott said the woman then wanted to use the toilet and went upstairs in Gratrix's home, only to be followed by Gratrix, who said words to the effect of 'let's have sex'.

The woman said she tried to talk her way out of it, but Gratrix took hold of her elbows and walked her back into a bedroom and put his body weight on top of her as she fell to the bed.

The prosecution said Gratrix kissed the woman several times to the neck and put his hand on her breasts under her clothing.

The woman, in police interview, said Gratrix had his belt undone and put his hand down her pyjama bottom in an attempt to undress her, despite her saying: "No, stop."

She said the other man, by this time, had gone upstairs and Gratrix said it was "just fun and games", to which she replied it was not.

The woman and the other man then went to leave the house.

After returning to her home, the woman told her family what she said happened, and they went to Gratrix's address.

Police were called to Gratrix's home at 4.30am on August 18 amid a report of people trying to enter the home.

Gratrix had been inside asleep, wearing earplugs, and police said he also appeared intoxicated.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Gratrix admitted he had lied to the police about his initial version of events.

He said: "I was traumatised when they told me I was under investigation for attempted rape.

"I went into an automatic meltdown. I was just thinking of my wife and family. I thought 30 years of my life was over."

Giving evidence, Gratrix said he had followed the woman up the stairs after waiting for a couple of minutes.

At the top of the stairs, which was a narrow, L-shaped landing, they had 'automatically' embraced in a 'passing manoeuvre' and, in their tipsy state, had accidentally stumbled and fallen on to the bed in the adjoining bedroom.

Gratrix said he kissed the woman once on the neck and it had been consensual, but then both of them realised mutually what they were doing was "wrong" and they "instantaneously" got off the bed and the night ended.

He denied any suggestion he had sexually assaulted her in any way.

The court heard there was DNA swab evidence from an enzyme belonging to saliva from Gratrix found on the woman's neck.

It was also accepted that both Gratrix and the woman had drunk several alcoholic drinks that night; Gratrix admitted having had "five or six" pints at the pub, and "one or two cans" at the fire pit, while the woman said she had drunk five bottles of Budweiser and two double gin and tonics before going to the garage, and had drunk alcohol at the fire pit.

The jury was informed while Gratrix does have a criminal record, it was for two dissimilar offences – breach of the peace and affray, committed when he was 16 and 19 years old respectively – and he had not been in trouble since.

The jury of eight men and four women - who are using Chester Crown Court's other large courtroom for their deliberations to ensure social distancing - will continue to attempt to reach a verdict.