Before he became a millionaire businessman who founded tech giant UKFast, sleazy Lawrence Jones spoke to beautiful young women while he was a pianist playing in top-end hotels across Manchester like the Octagon Lounge at The Midland.
Dressed in a pristine white shirt with a stiff collar, the former chorister liked to give them the impression he was going places. But his future - and reputation - is in tatters. He drugged and raped two women in 1993, a jury has decided.
Then in his mid 20s and living in a flat off Regent Road in Salford, he ‘stupefied’ them with an unknown drug before having sex with them on separate occasions, the prosecution told his trial.
Following the guilty verdicts on Thursday (November 23), the Manchester Evening News was able to reveal that the jury in the case wasn't told he had already been convicted of sexually assaulting another woman a decade ago.
The second trial jury heard one of Jones' victims, a student who cannot be named for legal reasons, referred to as Woman A in press reports of the trial, repeatedly broke down and sobbed in court as she told jurors she was going in and out of consciousness when he raped her.
She admitted she had taken an instant dislike to Jones following an earlier encounter when she had complained about her love life. Jones left the young woman shocked when he responded: “You need a damn good seeing to, you need a good f***ing g don’t you?”
She thought he was an arrogant ‘Tory boy’.
Despite her antipathy, she agreed to go back to his apartment in an attempt to get on with him.
“Maybe I was naive. Maybe I was f***ing stupid because what happened after that certainly has affected the rest of my life,” she later told the jury under cross-examination by Jones’ KC.
She drank one glass of red wine and took a couple of ‘tokes’ from a spliff Jones rolled, and immediately felt her body wasn’t her own. She recalled Jones ‘manspreading’ on the sofa. The woman later told the jury that how she felt afterwards ‘was not how I would normally feel after smoking weed and drinking alcohol.”
Although she felt ‘numb’ and ‘groggy’ and could only recall ‘snapshots’ of what happened, she was sure she was drugged and raped. The jury agreed.
The woman told the trial: “I couldn’t move on that bed. I couldn’t get out… I couldn’t get out of there and I was scared.” The woman recalled telling Jones to stop and that they ‘shouldn’t be doing this’ but he just carried on and told her the encounter would be ‘our secret’.
Jones shouted at her that she was a ‘f***ing p**** tease’ who should not ‘lead men on’. “So do I have to teach you a lesson or are you just gonna let me f*** you,” the increasingly angry Jones said, according to the woman.
Alone, vulnerable and scared, Jones told her he could do what he wanted as there was nobody around to help her.
The young woman said she felt drowsy and ‘made of lead’ as an unknown drug took effect. She heard the ‘snap’ of a condom going on.
“The next thing you know he’s on top of me and inside me,” she said. She said she recalled thinking: “F***, I’m not getting out of this.”
Her next memory is waking in the flat the next morning ‘just in shock’ and feeling ‘numb’. She also had a big headache she couldn’t reconcile with a single glass of wine and a drag from a spliff.
The woman said dismissive Jones called her a cab the next morning. Jones claimed he had never even met her and that there was no rape.
Following a two-week trial at Manchester Crown Court, the jury believed Woman A and Jones was convicted of rape. At around the same time in 1993, Jones raped a second young woman, referred to during the trial as Woman B.
Both separately came forward to police years later, in 2020 and 2021, after reading about Jones, the multi-millionaire founder of Hulme based tech firm UKFast considered a philanthropist. By then he was an MBE for services to the digital economy and in 2019 his family was ranked 203rd in the Sunday Times Rich List with wealth estimated at about £700m.
It was a narrative which jarred with both women, who knew a very different story.
Both separately came to the police and described similar attacks. They both described a two-bed flat where they were raped. Jones insisted at the time he lived at a four-bed flat, complete with a grand piano, one of about a dozen he rented out to hotels and venues across the city.
Woman B knew Jones as a pianist who worked the hotels across the city. He was a ‘very confident charismatic guy’ although also a ‘big pot head’, she said.
“He probably thought of himself as a bit of a ladies’ man and he had a bit of swagger. He made me feel like he was very successful and felt he was going places. I thought he was a professional and trustworthy kind of bloke and it wasn’t really like that at all…I saw what he was really like and he took advantage of me,” the woman told the jury.
Like Woman A, she said she agreed to go back to his flat where he told her to sniff from a medicine bottle with a clear liquid in it.
Jones accepted he had sex with the woman, but insisted it was consensual. At the time he was using ‘poppers’ for a more intense orgasm, he admitted.
The young woman, after inhaling from the bottle, said she felt instantly ‘really really drunk’, ‘floppy’ and ‘out of it’. She was ‘not completely conscious’, but she recalled the defendant on top of her for a grubby sexual encounter which lasted no more than 30 seconds.
“It was basically just in and out… it was so bizarre and so fast, and so sort of opportunistic…it was just really hard to reconcile... almost like did that really happen?,” the woman later told the jury.
Tragically, she questioned - and still questions - whether what happened could be classified as rape.
The jury concluded it WAS rape.
The woman told police she thought it was odd Jones had asked for her age. She said: “I just wanted to find someone nice. I remember him saying to me ‘you are so young - you have your whole life ahead of you… you are gorgeous’. All of this banter. It was just weird.”
Describing the rape, Woman B told the trial: “I recall him asking me to sniff a bottle of something. I don’t know what it was. It was a clear liquid in a quite small medicinal bottle. I do remember him suggesting I sniff this stuff.
“I can’t believe I did it because I don’t do things like that. I’ve never taken drugs in my life, never. I don’t know what it was. I didn’t recognise the smell or anything like that.
“It was just not me. Perhaps he said this could relax me. I can’t remember. I can’t remember too much more. I felt instantly really, really drunk.
“I just flopped all over. I can feel it now. I can feel how it made me feel, just instantly felt really really sleepy and relaxed all over but really out of it as well, not really conscious.”
She went on: “It wasn’t violent…I didn’t stop it. I didn’t really know what on earth was going on. I have always wondered whether to classify it as a rape because in my mind rape surely it’s violent and you push them off and they pin you down. In my mind that’s very clearly rape.”
The woman said she felt ‘an element of shame and I suppose regret’ because she had not screamed or pushed him away. “Why did I not do that? But then, thinking about it, I was pretty out of it,” she said.
“I was really floppy, my body was really quite heavy. I didn’t really jump up or move quickly or get dressed quickly, nothing like that,” she told police.
“All the things you think you’re supposed to feel I didn’t feel,” she said. “It was surreal. It felt like it was my fault but it wasn’t. I felt like I allowed it to happen. I didn’t kick him off, I didn’t hit him or knee him in the b****s.”
She said she felt ‘helpless’ at the time, adding: “Who was going to believe me?” Under cross-examination by Jones’ KC, the woman denied she was attracted to Jones or that they were in a relationship.
Jones told the trial the pair were in a relationship he found ‘too intense’ and that he broke it off. “Absolutely not, he’s not the kind of person I am attracted to,” said the woman.
Woman B’s husband told the trial that he recalled having a conversation with his wife about an article in Cheshire Life featuring Jones. Woman B appeared ‘anxious’ when she told him Jones had ‘given her something which made her not feel right’ and that they had sex although she said it was ‘strange’, the husband told the jury.
The husband said he didn’t want to ask questions about the incident as he didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, but that later, after watching a documentary about Jimmy Savile and searching online to find someone else had made allegations against Jones, his wife vowed to go to the police as she didn’t want others to suffer ‘the same thing’.
A woman friend of Woman B told the trial that during a family holiday she had said she had been raped during the early 1990s and that it had been ‘on her mind a lot recently’ as the man had been ‘in the media’. The friend said she was ‘shocked’ and that Woman B said she had been ‘carrying this with her’ and had not even told her husband.
Woman B only told her it was a ‘successful businessman’ who had ‘made her smell something and then raped her’.
Woman A told three friends and she also told a counsellor in 1995 she had been raped before going to police.
Married with four daughters, Jones, from Hale Barns, had denied the two rape charges but the jury decided he was guilty.