A PROMINENT businessman suffered devastating brain injuries in a vicious attack after he was wrongly suspected of raping one of his workers, a court heard yesterday.
John Chalmers, 47, has had to "learn everything again" and step down from a senior role in his family's bakery in Aberdeen – which holds the Royal Warrant – because of the assault.
He had become friends with a woman less than half his age, whose brother mistakenly believed Mr Chalmers had sexually assaulted her.
On Christmas Day, 2007, Steven Macleod, 28, struck Mr Chalmers a blow to the head with a length of wood and repeatedly punched him, causing a fractured skull and internal bleeding. Without prompt medical treatment, he might well have died.
Macleod, of Aberdeen, admitted assaulting Mr Chalmers to his permanent impairment and to the danger of his life. He will be sentenced next month.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Mr Chalmers had been managing director of Chalmers Bakery, which was owned by his parents and employed 200 people. In the months leading up to Christmas 2007, he and his partner separated and he became friendly with Cyndi Macleod, 21, who worked at the bakery.
"Some witnesses suggest that theirs was more than simply a friendship, but she denies this," said the advocate-depute, Iain McSporran.
Mr Chalmers and Ms Macleod had been out on Christmas Eve and she became very drunk. She arrived at her brother's home and from her demeanour and from scratches on her hands, he formed a view that she might have been sexually assaulted.
Later, the siblings went to the home of their mother, Karen Macleod, 46, in Aberdeen. "The accused was becoming more convinced that something untoward had happened to his sister … and even persuaded her to go to the toilet to examine herself for signs of interference. She says she did this and reported there was nothing amiss," said Mr McSporran.
"It should be understood that the accused now fully accepts that Mr Chalmers had done nothing wrong."
Mr Chalmers arrived at the house in the early hours of Christmas morning, where Macleod assaulted him. Mr Chalmers managed to drive home, but police had been alerted to concerns about his driving and went to the house and, on seeing his injuries, called an ambulance.
Initially, Macleod's mother claimed responsibility for the attack, telling police she had come downstairs to find Mr Chalmers sexually assaulting her daughter. Cyndi Macleod had ripped her own blouse to support the story.
Karen Macleod "did not persist in this account, having apparently realised her belief that the police would 'go easy' on a mother in such circumstances might prove misplaced", said Mr McSporran.
Macleod told officers his mother had said his sister had definitely had intercourse and he went "aff ma heid". He said he and his mother wanted to give Mr Chalmers "a good kicking".
In his eyes, Mr Chalmers had raped his sister and he "lost it".
Karen Macleod was originally charged with her son, but her plea of not guilty was accepted by the Crown. Mr McSporran said the victim remembered nothing of the incident. He had suffered several seizures and remained in hospital for almost four months.