By JAMES MILLS and MICHAEL SEAMARK,
23:02pm 28th July 2006
The father of a child chess prodigy who plunged to her death from an eighth floor hotel window is facing trial accused of raping her.
Jessie Gilbert, 19, downed a cocktail of drinks with a friend before apparently throwing herself from her room, police in the Czech Republic said.
Now it has emerged that the teenager, who was competing in an international chess tournament, had been tormented by the criminal proceedings against her father.
Ian Gilbert, a City banker, has been charged with seven counts of rape and two of indecent assault – understood to relate to more than one victim. He is due to appear in court next month.
Jessie, whose mother is a research scientist, had been taking a gap year to play chess while preparing to go to Oxford University to study medicine.
But her life had been thrown into turmoil after her father was charged with raping her.
Czech police captain David Krkada said: ‘She was afraid and had bad feelings about it.’ As part of the police inquiry, she will have been interviewed by detectives in a ‘rape suite’ and given them a statement – probably videotaped – in connection with the allegation.
If Mr. Gilbert denied the charges when he appeared in court next month his daughter faced the harrowing prospect of giving evidence against her own father, and being cross-examined by his barrister.
Neighbours said the Gilbert family had been through a ‘very difficult time’ when news of Jessie’s tragic death emerged on Thursday.
In recent months 48-year-old financier Mr Gilbert, who works in private banking for the Royal Bank of Scotland, has split from his wife Angela, 52.
Neighbours in the Surrey village of Woldingham say the family’s £800,000 detached home has been sold while the couple recently divorced and moved to separate properties.
News of her father’s rape charges came as more details emerged of the last troubled hours of Jessie, who became a chess world champion at the age of 11. She had been sharing a room at the Hotel Labe in Pardubice, 65 miles east of Prague, with her best friend and fellow chess player Amisha Parmar, 14.
On the night of the tragedy, the two girls drank heavily in their room. They had a small bottle of sparkling wine, a half litre of vodka, liqueur and two beers from the minibar as well as a large bottle of Bacardi they had bought from a shop.
Mr Krkada said: ‘At some point the younger girl, who was not used to drinking, became ill and went to the bathroom. When she emerged, Jessie had gone but Amisha didn’t realise what had happened.
‘Jessie has a history of sleepwalking so she assumed she had wondered off in her sleep or just gone for a walk to get some fresh air.
‘This was about midnight. But at 3.30am Amisha was woken to be told her friend had died. She had fallen to the ground. It is still not certain what happened. It could have been an accident.
But there are several factors which suggest she probably jumped. She was on medication for depression and we found prescription pills in her room.
‘Amisha also told us that she had attempted to hurt herself a couple of times before by cutting her wrists with a broken bottle but had never told her family about it.
‘There was also a lot of trouble in her family. Her parents split up and her father is facing a serious court case. She was afraid and had bad feelings about it.
‘We are more or less done with the case now and we have given permission for the body to be flown back to England.
‘We are just awaiting the autopsy results and we are checking her mobile phone records to see if there were any phone calls or texts around the time of her death.
‘Amisha said Jessie wasn’t the type of person to leave a suicide note.’
Amisha, who is Britain’s top chess player in her age group, is said to be devastated.
Her chess coach David Levens, 67, said: ‘Amisha is broken-hearted and blames herself. They were sharing a room. She was her closest friend and she will never see her again. She is in a terrible state. She is far too upset to speak to anyone.’
Miss Gilbert was once ranked as one of the most intelligent people on earth. She hit the headlines in 1999 when she beat adults to win the World Women’s Amateur chess title at the age of 11, just three years after she started playing.
The success earned her a £4,000 chess scholarship to America, where she studied with Grand Master Edmar Mednis for a week.
The same year she was finalist in the Brain of the Year competition run by the Brain Trust charity, where she was beaten to the title by the U.S. astronaut John Glenn.
A former pupil of £9,000-a-year Croydon High School, an independent school for girls, she had been due to play her next game in the Czech Open on the day her body was found.
Amisha was too distressed to continue with the tournament and flew home to Ilkeston, Derbyshire, on Thursday with her mother Krishna and elder sister.
Jessie, who has one elder and two younger sisters, had until three months ago lived with her parents at their detached home in village of Woldingham, near Caterham.
Surrey police have confirmed that Ian Gilbert was on bail awaiting trail at Guildford Crown Court on August 21 charged with seven counts of rape and two of indecent assault.
Czech police say counterparts in the Surrey force contacted them after news of Jessie’s death and gave them details of the allegations.
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