The court has found a Canberra masseur fondled a woman’s breasts as she lay at his spa.
Timothy Van Eyle admitted massaging his client’s breasts as he thought she wanted him to but denied touching her nipples or that his actions were sexual, pleading not guilty to a charge of an act of indecency without consent.
But Van Eyle now faces up to seven years in jail after Magistrate Jane Campbell found him guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (8 April).
Magistrate Campbell outlined her decision by summarising the evidence from both sides, saying Van Eyle’s client went to his Civic spa in January 2019 for a full-body massage.
The woman said when he began massaging her neck and collarbone area, he asked if she wanted him to do the rest of her chest, and she said yes, assuming that meant he would give her a deeper massage.
However, she said he moved the sheet down over her body, uncovering her breasts, then fondled and cupped them and also touched her nipples.
She said her sheet was pulled down from her chest for possibly up to 15 minutes and described the movement of his hands from her breasts to her stomach as like he was “feeling her up”.
The woman did not move or remove her eye mask because his actions left her feeling “confused and uncomfortable”, Magistrate Campbell said.
However, Van Eyle had claimed that it was the woman who deliberately moved her sheet, partly exposing her breast, and he massaged her breasts because he thought she wanted him to.
“She exposed part of her breast to me,” he said, according to Magistrate Campbell.
“At the time, it didn’t seem like an accident.”
He said when asking if she wanted him to massage the rest of her chest, he did not use the word breast because he did not want to “arouse” her or trigger a “flight or fight response”.
He also said he thought massaging her breasts “will help her relax”, according to Magistrate Campbell.
Van Eyle had only been employed as a masseur for about three weeks and said he had not been taught to treat breasts, but he used “conceptual knowledge” to massage those belonging to the woman, saying it was similar to treating a scalp.
Once Van Eyle’s employer became aware of the complaint against him, they told him not to massage people’s breasts, whether or not they asked for it.
Magistrate Campbell said the case largely depended on the evidence of a single witness, the woman, whom she described as “very impressive”.
However, she said while Van Eyle presented well in court, she had concerns about the honesty and reliability of his evidence. Still, she did note that since the incident, he had taken action in his business to ensure his clients understood consent and where they could be touched.
Magistrate Campbell rejected Van Eyle’s claims his client had moved her sheet deliberately and, by doing so, indicated she wanted a breast massage and that he did not touch her nipples.
Instead, she found he had touched the woman in a deliberate, sexual manner and that the offence was proven.
Van Eyle betrayed little emotion during the hearing, sitting straight and keeping his eyes cast downwards.
Magistrate Campbell adjourned the matter for sentencing to 2 May.