A rookie Canberra masseur faces up to seven years in jail after sexually "fondling" a client's breasts in an incident that left the vulnerable woman feeling "confused and uncomfortable".
Timothy van Eyle was found guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday of committing an act of indecency without consent during a full body massage at Spa Mint in Civic in January 2019.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charge, and faced a two-day hearing before Special Magistrate Jane Campbell earlier this year.
When she revealed her verdict on Thursday, Ms Campbell described the victim as "a very impressive witness" who had told the truth in the face of "vigorous cross-examination".
She said that on the day in question, van Eyle was massaging around the victim's chest and collarbone area when the victim recalled him asking: "Do you want me to do the rest of your chest?"
The victim remembered being unsure what that would entail but she said yes, not expecting it would involve the touching of her breasts.
The woman gave evidence that van Eyle had moved the sheet covering her breasts and exposed them, before "fondling them in a sexual manner".
She said, according to Ms Campbell, that it felt like the masseur was "just feeling her up" rather than focusing on muscles like the pectorals, as she had expected he would.
"She explained that she felt confused and uncomfortable about the incident," Ms Campbell said, adding that the woman had felt too vulnerable to protest or physically resist.
The magistrate said the woman had immediately called her boyfriend after leaving the spa to tell him what had happened, before contacting police later the same day.
Van Eyle, who had only been working at the spa for two or three weeks after completing his massage training at the Canberra Institute of Technology, denied doing "anything sexual" to the victim.
Ms Campbell said the masseur had described thinking the victim was deliberately exposing her breasts to him, prompting him to believe she wanted him to massage them.
Van Eyle claimed that he asked the woman if she wanted him to massage "the whole" of her chest, rather than "the rest" as she recalled him saying.
He said in his evidence that she had replied, "That'd be good."
The masseur said he therefore believed that the woman had consented to the touching of her breasts.
He denied touching her nipples or cupping the woman's breasts, however, saying he believed "that would be sexual" and he was just trying to help the woman relax and feel "sleepy".
"I wasn't doing any nipple things or anything like that," he said in his evidence, denying that he felt sexually aroused at any stage.
Ms Campbell said van Eyle had "presented well" in court, but aspects of his evidence were "implausible" and she largely rejected it.
She found the woman had not been deliberately trying to reveal her breasts to van Eyle, who had exposed them and touched her nipples "in a deliberate and sexual manner, not just in passing".
Ms Campbell said the victim had not provided consent for this sort of touching, and van Eyle must therefore be found guilty.
She placed the masseur on bail and ordered a pre-sentence report.
Van Eyle changed his shirt before leaving court and tried to hide from news cameras, covering his face with a bag and walking backwards.
A woman who was with him angrily insisted he was "innocent" and remarked that "a court judge is not the whole judge".
Van Eyle is due to be sentenced on June 2.
The court heard on Thursday that he was still employed by the same spa, which is now called Mint 'n Co Massage.
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