Cam­bridge PhD stu­dent tried to ruin fi­ance who dumped her for cheat­ing

Daily Mail - - News - By Neil Sears

A CAM­BRIDGE PhD stu­dent threat­ened to ruin her ex- fi­ance by spread­ing ru­mours that he had as­saulted her, a court heard. Zool­o­gist Sophia Cooke falsely claimed that palaeon­tol­ogy lec­turer Matthew Baron had at­tacked her in a bid to de­tract at­ten­tion from the fact she had cheated on him.

The pair had be­come en­gaged af­ter meet­ing at the pres­ti­gious univer­sity. But Mr Baron – also a doc­tor­ate stu­dent – broke it off af­ter Miss Cooke, 26, ad­mit­ted she had been un­faith­ful to him while away on a field trip to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, a court heard.

Miss Cooke claimed that her en­raged fi­ance, also 26, then launched a fren­zied at­tack that left her with a split lip, a swollen nose and bruises, and that she had feared she was ‘go­ing to die’.

How­ever, Mr Baron claimed that she was a ‘fan­ta­sist’ who had made up the as­sault al­le­ga­tions in a des­per­ate bid to avoid telling her par­ents that her in­fi­delity had scup­pered their fu­ture mar­riage.

He told a court that she had told him: ‘If you tell any­one that I have cheated I will ruin you.

‘I will tell ev­ery­one you have been a vi­o­lent mon­ster.’

He added that her claims had threat­ened his rep­u­ta­tion and fu­ture as an aca­demic, say­ing: ‘ Peo­ple look at me like I’m sub-hu­man.’

But fol­low­ing a one- day-trial, mag­is­trates re­jected Miss Cooke’s claims – rul­ing that her ac­count had been ‘ in­con­sis­tent’ and ‘not cred­i­ble’.

Clear­ing Mr Baron of as­sault, they handed him a 12-month con­di­tional dis­charge for the of­fence of crim­i­nal dam­age af­ter he ad­mit­ted smash­ing Miss Cooke’s car ra­dio in anger.

He was or­dered to pay £300 court costs, £300 in com­pen­sa­tion, and a £20 vic­tim sur­charge. Hunt­ing­don mag­is­trates’ court heard how last De­cem­ber Miss Cooke – who stud­ied for her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree at Read­ing Univer­sity – went on a six-week science trip or­gan­ised by Cam­bridge to the Gala­pa­gos, where she slept with an­other man.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to Eng­land, it was al­leged that in Fe­bru­ary she even­tu­ally con­fessed her in­fi­delity to Mr Baron – to whom she had been en­gaged since May last year – while the pair were bird­watch­ing at the Fen Dray­ton Lakes na­ture re­serve in Cam­bridgeshire.

Ac­cord­ing to her ac­count, he then launched into a vi­o­lent

‘If you tell any­one I will ruin you’

at­tack, spit­ting at her and punch­ing her. She claimed she was left with a split lip, a swollen nose, a sore back and bruises to her arms and groin – and that in her des­per­a­tion to es­cape alive she had climbed a tree and even con­sid­ered swim­ming across a lake.

Miss Cooke, who grew up in a £1.2mil­lion house in Clifton, Bris­tol, told the court: ‘I re­mem­ber think­ing I was go­ing to die.

‘He punched me on the side of the nose. I fell onto my bot­tom.

‘I put my hands up ex­pect­ing to find blood and was sur­prised there was none. I could taste his spit in my mouth.’

She con­tin­ued: ‘I re­mem­ber think­ing I have driven this man to vi­o­lence. I have ru­ined his life and have cheated on him. All I wanted was for him to for­give me.

‘It took me months to re­alise that this was not my fault.’

When Mr Baron’s de­fence bar­ris­ter Emma Hay­field asked her if the as­sault claim was re­ally just a way of ‘get­ting back at Matt be­cause he wanted to call off the wed­ding’, Miss Cooke replied: ‘I am not here for revenge. What he did was wrong – I do not want him to do it to any­one else.’

Mr Baron, from Hartle­pool, told the court that Miss Cooke – with whom he had pre­vi­ously shared rooms at Christ’s Col­lege – had only re­ported the al­leged as­sault to po­lice in a des­per­ate bid to stop her par­ents find­ing out about her

‘Turn ev­ery­one against me’

Gala­pa­gos fling. ‘It would save her telling her fam­ily that the wed­ding was off be­cause she was hav­ing an af­fair,’ he said.

Fight­ing back tears, he said the claims threat­ened his aca­demic fu­ture, adding: ‘Peo­ple look at me like I’m sub-hu­man.

‘My po­si­tion at Cam­bridge is al­most un­ten­able. She had me banned from my col­lege bar. Nine times out of ten when a girl says a guy beat her up, it hap­pened – but in this case that is just not what hap­pened.

‘She’s ac­tively tried to make it not pos­si­ble for me to com­plete my PhD. She has run with this, and tried to turn ev­ery­one else against me. My friends and my fam­ily are the only thing that’s got me through. This pro­longed as­sault was en­tirely fic­ti­tious.

‘I have never been vi­o­lent in my life, to any­one. I don’t care if she had slept with the en­tire is­land, I would never have hit her.’

In re­al­ity, he said, when she con­fessed her adul­tery he had ‘cried. I was heart­bro­ken. I had re­ally trusted her and loved her and I had just had this bomb­shell’.

He added: ‘She said, “If you tell any­one that I have cheated I will ruin you. I will tell ev­ery­one you have been a vi­o­lent mon­ster.”’ Mr Baron’s col­lege tu­tor Dr He­lena Browne told the court he was an ‘ex­em­plary mem­ber of col­lege’ who as cap­tain of the col­lege foot­ball team had striven to ‘raise gen­der aware­ness and equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for fe­male stu­dents.

The court cleared Mr Baron from in­flict­ing a two-hour as­sault on his for­mer fi­ancee, with chair­man of the bench Si­mona Rock­all say­ing that Miss Cooke’s ac­count had been in­con­sis­tent and not cred­i­ble. Yes­ter­day nei­ther party com­mented.

A month be­fore the case, Miss Cooke had writ­ten on so­cial me­dia: ‘If only brains healed as quick as bruises’. Among one of many pho­to­graphs posted on­line is a selfie of her­self and friends cap­tioned: ‘Bi­ol­ogy women do oc­ca­sion­ally ap­pear not cov­ered in mud & bird poo’.

Claims: Sophia Cooke ac­cused for­mer fi­ance Matthew Baron, in­set left, of as­sault­ing her

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