Two young women who were sexually assaulted by the same massage therapist in London have shared their stories – hoping to give the strength to potential victims to contact the Metropolitan Police.
Katy and Mollie, both in their 20s, were described as ‘the bravest women ever’ for coming forward against Mongkon Thopwan, who was sentenced today to 11 years in jail.
He was convicted in March of five counts of assault by penetration and one count of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without their consent.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk ahead of the sentencing at Isleworth Crown Court, Katy and Mollie – whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity – appeared like lifelong friends.
Even though they had not met or spoken in the past, knowing that someone else was going through the same experience offered them solace.
Both women described what happened to them at the ‘very busy’ Thai Massage Nine Lucksa in West Kensington as ‘wholly inappropriate’ and ‘extreme’.
‘I had been going to this salon for two or three years before this incident and I had seen this man a number of times,’ Katy said.
‘He was actually really good at his job. He was someone I had seen in the double digits before this. What he did was completely out of the blue.
‘There was this one time – the visit immediately before my last one – he had done something a little strange that he had never done before, but nothing compelling enough for me to think “I never want to come back here again”.
‘So, I disregarded my gut feeling. In hindsight, it all makes a lot more sense.’
Katy confided in close friends and it is also their testimony that helped police with the investigation, which began in November 2020.
There was no CCTV or usable forensics, so the Met had to rely on the ‘incredibly compelling and thorough accounts’ of the two women.
Neither Katy or Mollie can go into details about their experience, so that it can avoid prejudice if any other victims come forward with cases against Thopwan.
But the Met described them as ‘serious sexual assaults’.
According to Mollie, this ‘gut feeling’ that Katy referred to is always there but women are ‘often taught or conditioned to ignore it to some extent’.
‘As women, what we are allowed to say and kind of be offended by is manipulated in such a way, that you almost become a little unaware or numb, and you ignore behaviour that is actually not okay,’ she explained.
‘You wonder what to do and whether you are going to offend someone.’
Mollie’s assault took place some six months after Katy’s – in June last year – and Thopwan was arrested the following day and charged.
When he was detained in November 2020, he was bailed with conditions whilst detectives continued their enquiries.
Following his release the Met and Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s licensing team worked together to revoke his licence.
So at the time of the second assault, Thopwan did not have a licence to work and his business was operating illegally.
Had Mollie not been running on ‘adrenaline and fear’ after she left Thopwan’s parlour, she reckons she would not have reported him.
Panicked, she also phoned a friend who persuaded her to contact the police immediately.
‘That was the only power I had in this situation,’ she stressed. ‘I didn’t have to be quiet about it.
‘That was the beauty of telling the police – we were validated. We didn’t need to make that judgement call myself.
‘It was so wholly inappropriate and extreme what both me and Katy experienced on separate occasions.
‘It is so black and white in that sense but it wasn’t until we told the police that we were validated.’
Offering advice to victims of sexual assault, Mollie said ‘do not catastrophise on your own’ because it is a ‘very dangerous game to play’.
She said: ‘In today’s society, it is very easy to carry secrets, especially in a big city like London where you can be anonymous.
‘But the burden of the secret is so horrible. I remember leaving the parlour and thinking “I cannot let this be my secret, it is too much to bear”.
‘So, don’t let it be your secret, it doesn’t have to be yours. It is really freeing.’
Both women are battling the effects on their mental and physical health, and working to put their lives back together.
For Katy, the assault had a devastating impact on her career, even though her employer has been ‘incredibly supportive’.
Her relationship broke down as a result, and many of her friendships have also suffered because she was on ‘autopilot’ for so long.
‘I also spend a lot of time feeling guilty about how upset my family has been by it, she said. ‘I feel responsible for burdening them with it and that gets worse over time.’
Mollie likened dealing with the sexual assault to ‘a running machine that you cannot switch off’.
After a breakdown during the Easter holidays, she has found the last two months ‘tricky and intense’, and has had to go to a psychiatrist as a result.
One of them suggested she was experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to PTSD UK, up to 94% of survivors of rape or sexual assault develop symptoms in the first two weeks after the event.
This leads to around half of victims suffering long-term symptoms.
Mollie said her recovery is ‘an ongoing journey’, adding that it could have been a lot worse without the police intervention.
She described the treatment she received from the Met as an ‘incredibly beautiful example of how the system does work’.
Detective constable Natalie Witt, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, applauded their ‘tremendous courage and bravery’.
Without their evidence police would not have been able to remove this sexual predator from our streets, she said.
She urged anyone else who has been the victim of a similar attack to contact police.