June 12th, 2024

Peter Nygard says he doesn’t recall meeting complainants in sex assault trial

By Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press on October 26, 2023.

Lawyer Brian Greenspan (left to right), Justice Robert Goldstein and Peter Nygard attend Nygard's sexual assault trial in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct.25, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

TORONTO – Former fashion mogul Peter Nygard testified Thursday that he does not remember meeting two of the five women who have accused him of sexual assault, and repeatedly said he would never have forced himself on anyone.

Nygard, who is accused of using his position in the fashion industry to lure women and girls, told a court he would not have performed sexual acts on women against their will.

“I never would have done that,” said the 82-year-old, who was testifying in his own defence for a second day in a Toronto courtroom.

Nygard, the founder of a now-defunct international women’s clothing company, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement in alleged incidents ranging from the 1980s to mid-2000s.

All of the complainants’ identities are protected by a publication ban.

Nygard said that when a Toronto police detective questioned him in October 2021 about four of the five complainants involved in the case, none of their names or photographs were familiar to him.

He testified that he did not recall meeting one of the complainants on a flight and offering her a job, nor did he remember meeting another complainant at a Quebec nightclub decades ago.

The complainant who said she met Nygard on a flight to the Bahamas in 1988 and later phoned him after seeing him on TV has testified that she was sexually assaulted in the private suite of his company’s Toronto headquarters.

Asked by his lawyer Brian Greenspan whether he tackled that complainant and ripped open her blouse, Nygard replied, “That type of act I would never have done.”

When asked if he forcibly “digitally” penetrated the complainant, Nygard said, “That type of act I know for sure I have never done.”

Nygard also said he has no recollection of meeting another complainant in a Gatineau, Que., club when he attended a fashion event there in the late 1980s, and he doesn’t recall phoning her in Ottawa or making arrangements for her to come see him in Toronto. He also said he doesn’t recall giving her a tour of his company headquarters at 1 Niagara St. in Toronto.

Nygard also disputed some of that complainant’s descriptions of the interior of the Toronto building. He said there was no “grand staircase”; everyone used the elevator. He also said there were no videotapes containing pornography in his suite.

He also said he was not a drinker ““ aside from a glass or two of red wine, which he considered to be healthy ““ and would not have known how to mix an alcoholic drink for someone.

When Greenspan asked him about specific sexual acts the complainant said he forcibly performed on her, Nygard answered each question with a variation of the sentence: “It’s the kind of activity that I know I would never do and have never done,” or by saying, “Absolutely not.”

Greenspan asked Nygard if that same complainant approached him many years later at a Playboy Mansion party in Los Angeles to confront him about the alleged sexual assault, as court has heard earlier in the trial.

“That would never have happened because I would simply never had done that,” Nygard replied.

Multiple complainants in the trial have alleged they were taken to Nygard’s Toronto headquarters under pretences ranging from tours to job interviews, with encounters ending in a top-floor bedroom suite where they allege they were sexually assaulted.

Some of the testimony court heard from complainants included allegations of being trapped within the suite.

Nygard told the jury Wednesday that there was no way someone could get locked inside the suite because it had three exits and only one of them required a passcode since it led to his office.

Nygard founded the company that later became Nygard International in Winnipeg in 1967, and stepped down as chairman of the clothing company in February 2020 before it filed for bankruptcy.

More testimony is expected on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2023.

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