06:14AM, Tuesday 16 July 2013
A coach driver from Maidenhead is standing trial accused of the manslaughter of a prostitute over a £20 ‘cuddle’.
Ian Underwood, of Heywood Court Close, appeared at Reading Crown Court yesterday where he was accused of assaulting Natacha Pearl causing her to run into a busy road before being hit by a car.
The court heard the 50-year-old confronted Miss Pearl at 2.30am on August 21, 2011 as he was angry at not receiving services he had paid for.
Prosecutors say Underwood is responsible for the 25-year-old's death on the A4 Bath Road at the junction of Landsdowne Avenue in Slough.
Christopher Donnellan QC, prosecuting, said the assault was the 'central issue' that led to her death.
He told the court: "Natacha ran into the road because she was trying to get away from Ian Underwood. He confronted her and grabbed her and assaulted her.
"The assault was an unlawful act."
Mr Donnellan told jurors Miss Pearl was hit by James Sumner, who was driving his Kia on the A4 after she ran into his path.
He said Mr Sumner, 19 at the time, saw Underwood grabbing Miss Pearl, who was trying to get away before running into the road.
Mr Donnellan said Miss Pearl had called Underwood earlier that night asking if he wanted to see her as she was short of cash for her electric bill.
He said Underwood met her in a car park behind her friend's house and paid £20 for a 'cuddle’ later that evening.
The court heard Miss Pearl never showed up which made Underwood ‘angry’, thinking she had spent the cash on drugs and that he didn’t want to be ripped off.
Mr Donnellan said Underwood had known her for a couple of years and would meet her in his Citroen Saxo on his way home from work.
He said the relationship with Miss Pearl was part friendship and part comfort and he would go to her and other prostitutes for 'cuddles'.
Underwood denies the charge and said no physical contact took place, but admits following Miss Pearl into the road.
He is on conditional bail.
The trial continues.
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