Woman who was sexually assaulted by a multi-millionaire tech tycoon – once known as ‘Britain’s nicest boss’ – says his conviction shows that ‘no amount of money or power puts you above the law’

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By Ketrin Agustine

A woman who was sexually assaulted by a multi-millionaire tech tycoon during a business trip says his conviction shows that ‘no amount of money or power puts you above the law’.

As Lawrence Jones – once dubbed ‘Britain’s nicest boss’ – today faces a lengthy jail sentence for preying on three women, one of his victims said she hoped their courage at facing him in court would help ‘protect other young girls’ from being abused at work.

The married 55-year-old built a reputation as a business guru, playing chess against Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island and regularly featuring on the BBC.

His success in creating a £700million business empire along with his glamorous wife Gail – who is standing by him – saw him appointed MBE for services to the digital economy, and he twice donated £100,000 to the Conservative Party.

But the Bentley-driving entrepreneur’s public image – staff at his Manchester-based web hosting firm, UKFast, were given perks including an on-site bar, ice rink, recording studio and even a ‘den’ for taking naps – hid the reality of how he treated female employees, two trials heard.

Woman who was sexually assaulted by a multi-millionaire tech tycoon – once known as ‘Britain’s nicest boss’ – says his conviction shows that ‘no amount of money or power puts you above the law’

Multi-millionaire businessman Lawrence Jones (pictured) was convicted of raping two women in the early 1990s while earning a living as a hotel pianist last week

The businessman at the height of his success playing chess with Richard Branson, left

Last week Jones was convicted of raping two women in the early 1990s while earning a living as a hotel pianist.

Following their verdicts, it was revealed that back in January he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman employee of UKFast back in 2013.

That conviction – which has seen Jones spent the past ten months behind bars on remand – could not be reported at the time to avoid prejudicing the jury in the second trial.

Ahead of his sentencing, the former employee has spoken to the Daily Mail about why she came forward alongside a former co-worker, whom Jones was cleared of raping.

Jones’ downfall has been dubbed ‘Manchester’s #MeToo moment’ after he survived multiple allegations of sexism and accusations of being a ‘dinosaur in a suit’.

The sex assault victim – who was told by Jones ‘Let me see your knickers’ as he grabbed her legs – confirmed she had been motivated by the global fightback against powerful abusers.

‘The MeToo movement was significant in understanding that actually, people would be believed, and no amount of money or power puts you above the law,’ said the victim, referred to as Woman D because her lifelong anonymity is protected by law.

‘With Jones having endless resources, it’s hard to see how you might get the result you want.’

Lawrence Jones (pictured), who received honorary doctorate in business administration from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2016, has been stripped of the award after he being found guilty of drugging and raping two women 30 years ago

She told police how Jones instructed her that as part of her role she needed to ‘look like a Bond girl’.

The millionaire – the father of four daughters – then tried to push her thighs apart and get on top of her, she alleged, as she cried out: ‘No!’

‘He was pulling my dress down, pulling the top down,’ she added.

‘I was terrified, I was really scared.

‘I felt like he was trying to have sex with me if I’m being honest.’

After the terrifying incident, Jones offered her a pay rise and a bonus, his trial heard.

She refused to accept the offer and handed in her notice, later filing an employment tribunal claim which she withdrew after she was offered a £13,000 pay-out and signed a non-disclosure agreement.

It was the fear that other naïve young women – seduced by UKFast’s reputation as growing business with a fun workplace culture – would face a similar ordeal which motivated her to go to the police in 2019.

Jones shared this photo on his blog with the caption, 'Stress free in the Maldives'

Later that year Jones and his wife cut their ties with UKFast after a bombshell Financial Times article in which unnamed female employees accused him of bullying and sexual harassment.

‘The ultimate goal was to make people aware of this behaviour – to protect other young girls from going through the same,’ Woman D said.

‘I should have done this at the time, but I didn’t feel mentally strong enough – I took the easy route, rather than the right route and I wanted to redeem that.’

Having been made aware that a co-worker had also gone to police, she said she felt ‘a duty to myself’ to do the same.

‘It was also part of the healing process,’ she added.

Describing the time she spent working at UKFast, she said: ‘The culture was toxic, it was volatile and all depended on what mood he was in.

‘If Jones was in a good mood, you’d know about it.

‘If he was in a bad mood – there would be swearing, shouting, slamming doors etc.

‘There were often threats of job loss, name-calling and people being taken into a room at 3pm on a Friday to never come back.’

Later that year Jones and his wife cut their ties with UKFast after a bombshell Financial Times article in which unnamed female employees accused him of bullying and sexual harassment

Lawrence Jones arriving at Manchester Crown court earlier this year with wife Gail

Before his downfall, the father-of-four had built a £700million fortune and a reputation as a business guru, playing chess against Sir Richard Branson

Her reaction to Jones being convicted of sexually assaulting her was an ‘overwhelming feeling of relief, that the jury came through and could see the truth,’ she said.

And she said her message to anyone else who has fallen victim to powerful abusers was that ‘it’s never too late to come forward’.

‘The court process isn’t easy, but it does allow for some sort of closure – whatever the result.

‘The defendant is held to account, and must face what they have done.’

Jones’s lawyers told a bail application hearing that being in prison had a ‘devastating’ effect on the family finances, with 19 people losing their jobs as a result.

This week, Manchester Metropolitan University ‘formally rescinded’ the award of honorary doctor of business administration it bestowed on Jones in 2016.

He is due to be sentenced on Friday.

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