Four women, 15 months: The case against serial student rapist Charles Goodwin

Goodwin was sentenced to 17 years in prison for raping two students and sexually assaulting another

It was a cold and grey January day in Liverpool when the jury finally read out their verdict: guilty. Charles Goodwin was a 21-year-old student and now a convicted rapist; guilty of raping two students and sexually assaulting another. As his family shouts down “shame on this court” and the judge tells him to expect a lengthy sentence, Charles stands in his hoodie, buries his head in his hands, and cries.

It took four women’s testimonies and nearly two years to get to this moment. This story contains multiple references and graphic stories of rape and sexual assault and all victims’ names have been changed to protect their identities.

Two years ago Charles, or Charlie as he is known to his friends, was on a night out in Manchester. He’d just finished working for the day as a waiter in the restaurant of a well-known department store. He was living at home in Salford and balancing his part-time job with his business studies diploma to help him get into university. Along with one other mate he headed out on 14 January 2020 to a club on Bootle Street.

It was *the* student club night. The club was packed, indie music was playing and everyone was enjoying the famous two-for-one drinks deal. Charles met Amy, as you often do on a night out, in the smoking area. Amy was a student studying at a university in Manchester. They started talking and Charles told Amy his name and claimed he was a “champion boxer” who lived in Salford. They kissed and Charles attempted to flirt with Amy. He grabbed the cigarette she had just rolled out of her hand and tried to make her fight him for it back. Irritated, Amy went back inside the club to find her friends. After dancing she headed back outside for a cigarette. Charles followed her and began grabbing at her. He begged to go home with her and though she initially refused, Amy agreed they could go back to hers as she knew her housemates would be back soon. She thought it would be easy – they could just have sex and he would leave.

They got in the taxi together and headed towards Amy’s uni halls. In the car, Charles tried to put his hands down Amy’s trousers and into her underwear. She pushed him off and they didn’t speak for the rest of the journey.

Arriving at her halls, Charles said he was going to treat her like a princess and picked her up despite Amy repeatedly saying no. They got into her room and Charles quickly undressed. They began kissing and having consensual sex. However, according to the testimony given in court, Charles soon became aggressive and started calling Amy names, demanding she call herself a “stupid whore”. He slapped her face multiple times and began choking her. Amy got out from underneath him but he quickly ordered her to lie on her front and he then sexually assaulted her. He then flipped her over and raped her whilst choking her. Amy thought she was going to die.

Amy’s flatmates returned from the club and knocked on her door. Charles shouted for them to “fuck off” whilst he held Amy’s neck down. She managed to get out from under him and opened the door to her friends. Charles, now semi-dressed, rushed out of Amy’s room and swore at her as he left.

Amy reported the assault to the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) at 5:30 am that morning. Amy was checked by a doctor who confirmed the bruising to her neck. The next day Charles was arrested and brought in for questioning. After his 24 hours in custody ran out, he was released on bail and police promised they would continue to investigate, but nothing happened.

Charles on a night out with friends

Eight months later, Charles arrived at the University of Liverpool, ready to start his Business Management degree. He was in a relationship and had already secured a job at a popular hotel in the city centre.

Charles’ Instagram, which is still live, reveals the type of fresher he was: popular and social. He shared with his 1,099 followers pictures from an AJ Tracey gig, photos from uni nights out, thirst traps, and mirror selfies. He and his friends would call each other “lad” and “bro” in the comments section. He spent his time in the lead-up to uni working on his mixed martial arts, often uploading videos of him fighting with a friend.

During the first week of term, he met Chloe, another first-year student, living in the same halls block as him. It was the first year of the pandemic, so unable to go out clubbing, Charles and his hallmates’ only chance of socialising was to stay in and drink with the rest of the building. Charles was loud and confident, he would often shout out “morning, campers!” to whoever he passed after breakfast, The Times reported.

Chloe and Charles had sex twice on one of their first nights at uni. Chloe soon discovered Charles had a girlfriend back home and began to distance herself from him. That is until one night they found themselves at the same gathering in their halls playing Ring of Fire. Throughout the night Chloe had a lot to drink and said she was encouraged by Charles to do shots. A friend asked Charles what the situation was between them. Charles said nothing was happening because Chloe was too drunk.

Chloe’s friend put her to bed in her own room and Charles admitted to having sex with her twice in the room. However, two hours later Charles sent a picture of Chloe naked in his bed to her friend with a joke about his sexual skills.

According to testimony given in court Charles anally raped her that night. She ran to the bathroom and cried. Whilst in the bathroom she could hear Charles crying too. She couldn’t remember getting back into bed with him but awoke to him raping her the next morning. She was too shocked to do anything to stop him. Chloe told Charles she had no memory of them sleeping together the night before and he joked this was because he was a “sex god”.

On her walk back to her own room, Chloe called her sister in pain, trying to make sense of what happened. Her stomach was covered in scratches and red hand marks she had no memory of getting. Later that day Charles visited Chloe to pick up his dressing gown. When he tried to hug her she rejected him and explained why. He immediately apologised for what happened and begged her not to go to the police. Chloe said she wouldn’t go to the police. That was until she heard about Jessica.

Charles during his time at university

Jessica was also a fresher, who met Charles three days after he assaulted Chloe. A group of students were outside the accommodation block drinking, and Jessica was upset over a guy who wasn’t interested in her. Attempting to act the gentleman, Charles offered Jessica his coat and a drink of Kahlua. He then gave her a pink gin with lemonade and encouraged her to down it. The group moved inside to a flat kitchen and carried on drinking. Jessica began to feel ill and so Charles took her outside where he continually tried to put his hand down the back of her trousers, despite Jessica saying no. Jessica began to feel sick, so they went back inside where she threw up in a bucket as Charles held her hair back. At one point, the rest of the group heads out to get pizza, leaving Charles and Jessica alone in the flat. This is when they begin to kiss.

They moved into the kitchen where Charles picked Jessica up to straddle him and placed her on the counter. He kept trying to put his hand down her trousers and into her underwear. She told him to stop twice, and he did and apologised. But despite her rejections, his attempts did not stop – he pulled his own trousers down, took his underwear off, and put her hand on his penis. She instantly pulled away and went to sit on the sofa. Charles followed her, pulled her trousers down, and hit her on her bum twice.

The next morning, hungover and disturbed by what had happened, Jessica confided in a friend, who encouraged her to go to the police. Jessica told the security staff at the halls. Uni campuses are small and rumours travel fast, particularly in Freshers’. It wasn’t long until Chloe, who Charles had assaulted just days before, heard about Jessica’s assault and later that same night decided to tell security about her own experience too.

Soon the police were called by security and Charles was arrested and brought in for questioning. The police were gathering evidence but did not have enough to charge him, so he was released on bail with certain conditions. Charles was not allowed out after 9pm and was put on an electronic tag by the court in February 2021. The University of Liverpool was informed and Charles was moved to a different halls.

The University of Liverpool. via Superchilum/Creative Commons Licence

For the next few months, Charles kept his head down. As the rumours continued to spread around campus about Charles’ behaviour he continued studying, working in the hotel, and occasionally going out for beers, ensuring he was back in his room by 9 pm.

But, just as term was about to end for the summer holidays, Charles was accused of sexually assaulting another girl. Maya claimed to have met Charles at a flat party. They were playing drinking games when he kissed her and encouraged her to come into, a bedroom alone. Charles allegedly grabbed Maya and pushed her onto the bed before performing oral sex on her. Maya was uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do. They were soon discovered by the girl whose room they were in, and Charles and his mates were asked to leave. Maya’s friend told the halls’ security and the police were informed by security.

Though Charles was eventually not found guilty of sexually assaulting Maya, it was this case that ultimately led to his arrest for the third time – the arrest that finally saw him prosecuted. A year and a half since the first accusation in Manchester, police stormed into Charles’ halls and arrested him on 6th May 2021. Charles was placed in prison as a “vulnerable person” where he remained for eight months until his trial earlier this year.

Throughout his time in jail and 13-day trial, Charles maintained his innocence, claiming all sexual activity was consensual.

Charles goodwin timeline

The timeline of Charles Goodwin’s offences

His trial began on 5th January 2022. He appeared in Liverpool Crown Court, often dressed in a suit, his father and grandfather usually watching from the sidelines. The prosecutor, Matthew Curtis, told the jury Charles was turned on by force and enjoyed dominating his victims, but Charles continually denied being violent towards the victims. During his cross-examination, Charles claimed the prosecution witnesses had lied and were twisting the evidence they presented in court.

Every claim brought to him, Charles had an answer for. Choking marks? They were consensual. Calling Amy names during sex? It was a form of foreplay. Chloe’s entire accusation? It was revenge for Charles having a girlfriend. Putting his hand down Jessica’s trousers? She never showed any negative signals that she didn’t want it.

Any doubt in the jury’s mind over the truth of the allegations appeared to be quashed when the victims shared their testimonies. Amy told the jury she thought Charles was going to kill her and now finds it difficult to have things around her neck due to the trauma of his choking. Chloe described the scratches on her stomach she got when he assaulted her, telling the jury Charles was manipulating her. And Jessica explained how Charles was coercing her into drinking more before he assaulted her.

Liverpool Crown Court via Mikey/Creative Commons Licence

After nearly three weeks in court, with days worth of evidence to mull over, the jury exited to make their decision. They returned just four hours later. The verdict was unanimous – guilty of nine out of 12 counts.

As Charles dropped to his feet, his grandfather shouted in the courtroom: “a young man’s life has been totally scotched and ruined.” Charles’ father Charles Goodwin Snr posted on Facebook later that day calling the verdict “despicable” and condemning the jury for finding his son guilty after a “girl turned up to court […] and cried about trauma”.

Charles Goodwin Snr answers my Zoom call from his home office in Salford. It’s just a few weeks since the guilty verdict, and Charles is awaiting sentencing. He is polite, slightly apprehensive, and wearing the kind of zip-up hoodie most dads have in their wardrobe. When he speaks about the complex details of the trial he is passionate and emotional. Charles calls his dad from prison halfway through our call, but Charles Snr asks to call his son back, keen to share his perceived injustices of the trial with me. He now regrets his Facebook post, worried it’ll affect the sentence. He wants to make one thing clear: he supports victims of sexual violence, but he believes his son was given an unfair trial.

Charles grew up with his Filipina mother in Wales as the second eldest of eight children. His father says he was neglected, bullied at school, and suffered a mental breakdown. When he suffered this breakdown Charles Goodwin Snr got the call from the school, because they were unable to reach his mother or her partner. Around this time, Charles’ father lived away, so Charles went to live with his paternal grandparents in Manchester, but he eventually moved in with his father during his GCSE years. Charles Snr took his son to Thai boxing and he was soon able to stand up to the bullies, becoming popular overnight, his father claims. Charles Snr claims there has been no contact from Charles’ mother during the arrests and trial.

This fraught relationship between Charles and his mum was used as a defence by his lawyer Katy Appleton during his sentencing. She claimed his emotional intelligence was not developed due to abandonment and harm in his early life. Appleton said this may have affected his ability to empathise with his victims and because of his relationship with his mother he had formed negative attitudes towards women.

But her closing argument made no difference to Judge Garrett Byrne. He called Charles a “misogynist” who treated Amy, Chloe and Jessica as playthings with no consideration for their consent. Charles was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Charles was kicked out of the University of Liverpool and is no longer with his girlfriend, although they were together when he was first in prison. His family are planning to appeal the verdict.

Charles goodwin

A selection of comments posted under news reports of the case

When the news of Charles’ sentencing was released on Facebook by various media outlets, the comments by the general population were overwhelmingly similar. Finally, a fitting sentence for rape.

One in five women are raped or sexually assaulted, and yet only one in 100 rapes reported to the police result in a charge, making Charles Goodwin’s case an extreme anomaly. The last few years have brought about a significant change in the way we view consent. Rape is now no longer seen as a stranger attacking in a dark alley. There is a better understanding that in order to consent you have to be sober, you can take away consent at any time even if you previously agreed to a sexual act, and just because someone is wearing revealing clothing does not mean they consent. These nuances of what consent actually means are finally making their way into the courtroom.

Prosecutor Matthew Curtis is keen to point out this change when we chat shortly after the verdict. “I think there is a greater understanding on the part of the jury about how to approach these cases. Judges and barristers are all very heavily trained now about how to properly go about these cases.”

On the surface, it is easy to see Charles’ case as a victory. A case filled with the complexities of drinking, consent and rough sex – a legal defence that was only outlawed last year. The rare 17-year sentence was dished out against a backdrop of a country battling a fresh crisis of violence against women. The UK police and legal system are waking up to cases like this.

And yet for Charles Goodwin’s victims and the countless other women who have been raped (63,136 rapes were reported to the police last year) things are not moving fast enough.

In an interview with The Times, Chloe criticised the police’s handling of her own case. “Why did it take three victims for him to be remanded? Why wasn’t he remanded immediately? I think there are definitely failings in the handling of the Manchester case.”

The Greater Manchester Police sent evidence of Goodwin’s crime to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in April 2020, three months after her assault took place. They were told further investigation was needed. By November 2020 Goodwin had attacked two more women, and the police sent the entire file to the CPS. Only then was Goodwin finally charged with raping Amy. For those months in between and subsequently after, he was allowed to continue studying at university, free to bump into two of his victims, which is often the case for students who report their rapes and sexual assault to only their universities and not the police.

Two years and a harrowing court case later, Charles Goodwin’s victims are still struggling to get on with their lives. Jessica took some time away from university and now suffers from panic attacks. Chloe now finds it difficult to socialise and says her once bubbly personality has disappeared. She’s retaking her first year of university and finds it difficult to enjoy sex with her new boyfriend, often crying or experiencing a panic attack. Amy has been suffering from PTSD, experienced feelings of suicide, and self-harmed. She quit university and moved back home.

In an impact statement read out at the sentencing, Amy described what happened to her as: “The worst experience of my life.

“I now feel any control I did have can be stripped away from me by the whim of a man who just wants to get what he wants.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story contact Refuge on their free 24/7 helpline 0808 2000 247 or contact Rape Crisis online for a free confidential chat helpline.

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