The reputation of Lawrence Jones - the feted millionaire tech tycoon who made his fortune in Manchester - lies in tatters. He has finally been exposed as a sex predator.
As his wife and children watched from the public gallery, tears were shed. The 55-year-old father-of-four from leafy Hale Barns faces years behind bars.
Jones has been convicted of drugging and raping two young women at a flat in Salford in 1993. Following the guilty verdicts on Tuesday (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.
The judge prohibited the media from reporting on the trial in January, following which Jones was convicted of sexual assault. He was cleared, following those proceedings, of one rape charge and three sex assaults against another woman.
After Judge Sarah Johnston lifted reporting restrictions, following the conclusion of Jones' second trial, his sexual assault conviction was disclosed for the first time. The M.E.N. was also then able to reveal that Jones has spent the last 10 months in prison following the earlier guilty verdict.
He molested his victim a decade ago, inviting the heavily intoxicated woman into his adjoining hotel room during a business trip. The jury was told he prised her legs apart, put his hands on her inner thigh and told her: "Let me see your knickers."
When she tried to stop him, Jones told her she had overreacted to a joke. The woman managed to escape, but in the days that followed Jones was 'rude and very cold' towards her.
After Jones was arrested, he sought to blame his victim, telling cops he was 'completely unimpressed with her attitude' and that she became 'quite drunk and became quite embarrassing'.
The jury didn't believe him.
The prosecution in the first trial alleged Jones 'behaved in a grooming and predatory way towards attractive young women' and used his position as a boss to 'get what he wanted'.
The lifting of reporting restrictions means the former chorister, who first earned a name for himself playing piano at top-end hotels across Manchester in the 1990s, has finally been exposed as a sex predator.
Jones will be sentenced next month.
The convictions represent a shameful fall from grace for Jones, who became a multi-millionaire thanks to his cloud firm UKFast, based in Hulme.
He received an MBE for services to the digital economy in 2015 while in 2019 his family was ranked 203rd in the Sunday Times Rich List with wealth estimated at about £700m.
Among the organisations whose data UKFast hosted was the Cabinet Office, North West Ambulance Service and the NHS. He has donated £100,000 to the Conservative Party and has been pictured with Boris Johnson.
Jones had enjoyed a reputation of someone who looked after his staff, giving them access to his ski chalet and encouraging them to take part in 'beer Friday'.
But his accusers at both trials have described something far more sinister - a predator constantly on the look-out for the next sexual conquest... whether wanted or not.
The jury at the second trial heard allegations - denied by Jones - that he ‘stupefied’ two young women with unknown drugs and then raped them on separate occasions at his flat in Salford in 1993.
One of them, referred to as Woman A in press reports of the trial, recalled going in and out of consciousness after having one glass of red wine and a few ‘tokes’ of a spliff the defendant rolled. She believed she had been deliberately drugged and raped.
She said 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, the jury heard, when he responded: “You need a damn good seeing to, you need a good f***ing 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, Eleanor Laws.
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’, the jury was told.
“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.
During his evidence, Jones said he had never met Woman A and did not rape her.
The second trial also heard allegations from another woman, referred to as Woman B, who said Jones encouraged her to sniff from a medicine bottle which contained a clear liquid and that she instantly felt ‘really really drunk’ when she inhaled from it. She said she was ‘not completely conscious’ when Jones raped her.
Jones accepted he had sex with the woman but insisted it was consensual. He said that around that time he was using ‘poppers’, amyl nitrate, for a more intense orgasm but he could not recall whether this happened on this occasion.
The jury which convicted Jones of these two alleged rapes weren’t told about his previous sex assault conviction, nor that he was already in custody.
During the latest trial, the prosecution made a ‘bad character’ application for the jury to be told about the conviction as the Crown argued it showed a ‘propensity’ towards ‘sexual aggression’. Jones’ barrister argued the differences in the details of the sex assault allegation and the alleged rapes were ‘stark’ and urged the judge not to put it before the jury.
Judge Johnston ruled that the jury should not be told about the decision.
Now the truth has been revealed - and the full extent of Jones' crimes made clear.