I was suicidal after waking up in hotel with stranger – police didn't believe I'd been assaulted so I crowdfunded trial | The Sun
WAKING up naked and cold in an unfamiliar hotel room, Emily Hunt turned to see a complete stranger.
It was 10.30pm, and the last thing she remembered was having lunch with her dad five hours previously.
Disorientated and terrified she’d been drugged and raped, she called the police and was taken to hospital – but this was just the start of her nightmare.
A series of police blunders derailed her case, and she spent five years battling to get the man prosecuted – even raising £27,000 through crowdfunding in a failed bid to bring a private prosecution.
At the same time the single mum, now 43, was crippled by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which left her suicidal -at one point she returned to the £200-a-night hotel, in London’s Bethnal Green, and tried to take her own life.
Now data analyst Emily – whose new book We Need To Talk is published on February 2 – tells The Sun being let down by the police and the CPS destroyed her life.
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“It affected every aspect of my life," she says. "My relationships fell apart, my career, everything fell apart.
"How do you interact with the world so everything's normal, when this is what's going on in your life and in your head?”
Emily eventually managed to get the perv prosecuted on a voyeurism charge in September 2020, after footage of her lying naked on the bed was found on his phone – but only after crowdfunding a judicial review against the CPS.
Emily claims police dismissed her initial claims she'd been raped and failed to gather vital evidence because they disliked her, even labelling her “difficult” in their own notes.
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Now an advisor to the government on the handling of sexual assault victims, she says her experience in May 2015 is all too common; only 1.3 per cent of people who report rape ever see their attacker charged.
“I wasn't likeable because I wasn't doing or saying the right things,” she says. “I didn't seem like the right kind of victim to them, so my case wasn't prioritised.
"Victims have strong reactions to what they've just experienced and that can mean everything from acting too over-the-top or acting too cold.
“In the worst moment of my life, waking up and trying to figure out what happened and trying to get out of the hotel room and get to the police, nobody seemed to understand that it was terrifying.
“I had a hyperventilating panic attack for the first time in my life and then started being ‘demanding’, wanting to know what was happening, and they just didn't like me.
"But… a victim shouldn't have to be likeable in order to get justice, or be believed."
Five hour blackout
Emily’s last memory was ordering a grappa while enjoying a meal with her dad in their favourite restaurant.
She claims her dad took a sip of the drink and also blacked out, losing memory of his flight home to Ireland.
What happened next is a blank for Emily, but she later discovered she had walked into a nearby bar before being taken to the hotel by a man she calls “John”.
Five hours later she woke up with her clothes and handbag in a pile on the floor, and instantly suspected she'd been drugged.
“If I had drunk so much I lost five hours of my life, without remembering even the embarrassing stuff, I would have been throwing up,” she says.
“I woke up feeling weird, fuzzy and out of sorts, which I now know are symptoms of a date rape drug, but I wasn’t nauseous or throwing up.”
Locking herself in the bathroom, Emily called a friend who phoned the police. When she returned to the room, John told her: “Don’t worry, nothing happened.”
Emily fled downstairs and collapsed while hyperventilating into the arms of a police officer in the lobby.
“I had never had a panic attack before that night, but I had them a lot after that, for about a year,” she says. "It was horrible, like the whole world was closing in around me.”
Emily claims the investigation was hampered by errors and delays which destroyed her chances of a private prosecution.
In the ambulance to the hospital, she claims she was told to “stop carrying on”.
When her blood sugar level crashed – a symptom of being drugged or drunk – Emily says a paramedic force-fed her chocolate and shouted at her, traumatising her further.
At the hospital, she claims she was asked to hand over her clothes but wasn’t given anything else to wear.
It was 2am, and when she couldn’t reach friends to bring her fresh clothes, she refused – leading officers to label her “difficult” and “obstructive”.
On finally getting home, Emily was still clueless and hoped John’s insistence “nothing had happened” was true.
However, after being arrested at the hotel he confessed to having sex with her, claiming it was consensual, but admitted she was so trashed he thought she was “on drugs or mentally ill".
Despite his statement, and the discovery of used condoms in the bedroom, Emily says police didn’t tell her this for two days – by which time she had showered and possibly destroyed evidence.
A urine sample sent for a toxicology report was incorrectly labelled, giving the time of Emily’s last memory as 7pm, rather than before 5pm.
This was significant because the date rape drug GHB can only be detected in the urine for up to 12 hours. Had Emily been drugged before 5pm, it could already have left her system.
Despite the police argument that she might have been sober enough to give consent to sex, there was no forensic examination at the hospital because police believed she was too intoxicated to consent to that.
CCTV footage from the hotel, which showed Emily stumbling through the lobby, unable to use her arms, was dismissed.
She says: “The fact that the toxicology was done too late that the wrong timeline was sent, meaning the lab concluded I hadn’t been drugged, was the biggest flaw and it took me more than a year to get them to fix it.
“They could never prove that I was too intoxicated to give consent, and the case hinged on that.
“Instead of looking at the circumstantial evidence that something was badly wrong, like the blood sugar crash and the CCTV, they kept coming back to the fact that he said I had consented, and it’s hard to prove otherwise. They just weren't interested.”
Six months after the incident, Emily was trying to rebuild her life having taken a new job at a PR agency when the CPS dropped the case.
When she finally received the toxicology report in February 2016, she discovered the timeline errors.
It also stated John had been sober and in possession of illegal drugs, which he claimed were LSD and Viagra, but were inexplicably never tested.
“That was a real breaking moment because I just felt so utterly worthless,” Emily says.
Hitting rock bottom, she took herself back to the hotel and wrote a long suicide letter to the police detailing how she felt her case had been mishandled, then downed champagne and swallowed 40 pills.
As she began to slip away, the thought of her daughter – now 11 – made her change her mind and call friends for help.
Police, alerted by the email, found her and took her to hospital.
On the advice of her solicitor, Emily decided to crowdfund a private prosecution and managed to raise £27,000 towards the estimated £60,000 cost.
But she was forced to abandon the case after her barrister reviewed it and said the lack of hard evidence meant the odds were against her.
In May 2016 Emily received more bad news when she was told John had taken a video of her.
After a discussion with the Centre for Women's Justice, she asked the CPS to pursue a charge of voyeurism – but was stunned to be told it was not illegal to film somebody naked without their consent or knowledge if you are in the same room.
Refusing to give up, Emily launched a judicial review, challenging their reading of the law.
Bizarrely, two weeks before her case was due, she was told it would be adjourned because of another case in which the CPS argued that filming a naked person without consent was illegal.
In an unprecedented twist, Emily’s legal team were invited to make their case in the same courtroom, despite not being directly involved.
The subsequent ruling in the victim’s favour meant John could now be prosecuted.
But in September 2020, despite the judge ruling he was “highly likely to reoffend”, he was given just 30 months' probation, a £2,000 fine and ordered to pay Emily £5,000.
Now a government advisor, Emily has helped implement Operation Soteria, which aims to tackle police bias in dealing with victims.
She has also written a book which tackles the way society views sexual assault claims.
“Rape is the only crime where the victim is often investigated before the perpetrator,” says Emily.
“We are letting down too many victims, but there’s now more of an effort across the criminal justice system to be better on trauma-informed responses to a rape accusation.
"Operation Soteria aims to help develop new models of dealing with rape and sexual assault across the UK."
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We Need To Talk, by Emily Hunt, is released on Mardle Books on February 2.
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