James Whitemarsh, a former BBC producer, has been acquitted of sexual assault by the Southwark Crown Court after a jury accepted his claim that eating raw oysters left him without control of his actions, according to a Daily Mail report.
Whitemarsh, 41, was charged with groping a female paramedic after friends called an ambulance for him when he began acting strangely while they were dining out.
The group was in London’s West End on Dec. 13 when Whitemarsh began swinging his arms and answering all questions with the word “honk.” In addition to drinking lager and white wine, he’d consumed both oysters and smoked salmon.
When ambulance arrived, Whitemarsh touched a female paramedic. “I felt his hand reach underneath and grab me,” she testified. “I could feel his fingers, so I would not call his touch soft. His hand was grabbing me as he groped.”
But it was the testimony of Professor Nicholas Birch that swayed the jury. The expert toxicologist and pharmacologist said the naturally occurring toxins filtered in the shellfish had not been properly removed before they were served to Whitemarsh.
It was unlikely that Whitemarsh knew what he was doing once he was in the ambulance and his actions were not under his “conscious control,” Birch testified. He also told the court it was also possible Whitmarsh could have been suffered from ‘scombroid food poisoning’ from a piece of salmon.
Oysters traditionally have been considered to be an aphrodisiac. Ed Cake, an oyster expert in the U.S. Gulf, says research has shown raw oysters do have aphrodisiac qualities, but those are not usually related to scombroid poisoning.