The Angel, Wisbech, was known among political opponents as the unofficial drinking and meeting spot for Conservative councillors and their cronies.
Aigars Balsevics, as landlord, milked it for all its worth.
It was no surprise therefore that the Latvian pub and bars entrepreneur found (or sought) an invitation to stand as a Conservative town councillor irresistible.
Not only did it suit his desire to be liked and respected within the community, the Tory party saw him as a decent catch, particularly when it came to engaging with the 10,000 or so Eastern Europeans, many of them Latvians but also Lithuanians and Poles, who had moved to Wisbech following the lifting of EU border restrictions in 2004.
Tory politicians laughed, drank, and sang Karaoke in his pubs because they believed he could bring them votes.
Balsevics liked them because they could enhance his business reputation, allowing him to take on the three tenancies that began with the Angel and later the Three Tuns and King’s Head.
Until he was charged with rape, and now convicted, Aigars had survived, and to a degree even prospered, from criticism levelled at him.
But today he was jailed for six and a half years after being convicted of raping a woman at her home in the town.
The sentence was handed down today at Peterborough Crown Court.
Prior to sentencing the judge heard from the victim.
She explained how she now ‘hates herself’, has an eating disorder, suicidal thoughts and now dislikes being around people.
She also said she had a fear of being in her own home because of the rape that happened there.
The only reason the incident stopped was because both her and Balsevics could hear her child’s noises from downstairs, she said.
The judge said Balsevics was of good character with no previous convictions.
So, what happened on the night of May 24, 2021, when he went to the victim’s home:
A jury believed her versions of events that while there he raped her despite her crying and repeatedly telling him no.
When she tried to get away Balsevics stopped her from leaving the room and raped her again.
After the attack, the distressed victim contacted two friends who arrived at her home and Balsevics left.
The woman reported what happened to police and Balsevics was arrested in the early hours of the following day (25 May).
Balsevics, of Burcroft Road, Wisbech, denied two charges of rape and went on trial at Peterborough Crown Court.
On July 31 he was found guilty on both counts.
Sentence was adjourned until today.
DC Katie Housham said: “I would like to commend the victim for her bravery throughout and I hope this conviction will help her as she tries to rebuild her life.
“Balsevics ignored her repeated pleas for him to stop and even refused to let her leave when she tried to get away. I’m pleased he has now faced justice for his actions.
“I would like to encourage anyone who has been the victim of a sexual offence to report it to the police. Your report will be taken very seriously, and we will always treat you with the utmost sensitivity and respect.”
Now that Balsevics is behind bars, it will be interesting to see how many of his former Tory supporters continue to believe in him.
One, another former mayor Jonathan Farmer, remains, bizarrely, firmly in the Balsevics camp, posting continuously and monotonously a miscarriage of justice mantra.
“Aigars is the victim in all this,” he wrote on Facebook shortly after the sentencing.
A former Tory councillor, Phil Webb, offered a different view, suggesting that Wisbech Town Council “should now strike his name from the past Mayors board in the council chamber?
“Let’s not forget the victim in all this, much support to her for coming forward and putting this monster behind bars for a very long time and then deported”.
A view shared by a current independent councillor from Wisbech, Cllr Dave Patrick, who has written to the town clerk asking for it to be discussed at a future meeting.
In public, Balsevics spoken only rarely, even during his year as deputy mayor and then the following year as mayor.
He did, however, react to an incident three years ago after his involvement in a crash and when he fled the scene without, as promising, meeting the other party soon after to exchange insurance details.
The allegation of being behind the wheel whilst over the limit was firmly denied and could never be proven by the time he met the family of the victim whose car he had crashed into.
“He should have given his insurance details and not left the scene and gone into hiding like his friends told me he would if he’s been on a bender,” was how the other party viewed it.
Balsevics was mayor at the time in May 2020 when the incident happened but being described as Pinocchio by his accuser failed to deter his supporters.
Mayor Aigars retorted that he was innocent of his accuser’s allegations.
“I have been suffering from depression. I have been fighting with the depression and working through it, but some days are better than others,” he explained.
“I am a private man, and I would not normally share personal information like this, but I feel I am forced to.”
Accepting he had been involved in an accident, he insisted he had at all times acted responsibly afterwards.
“I have been reading some of the terrible, awful, nasty lies told about me on Facebook,” he said.
“I have been shocked to see some of them are quite racist as well as completely false.
“I don’t understand what the matter with people who would spread such lies about an event at which they weren’t present and about a person they don’t even know. It makes me feel very sad.”
He added: “I have tried my best since I moved to Wisbech to be a positive part of the town. When I was the deputy mayor, I filled in for the mayor while he was unwell.
“Now I am mayor, a post I am very proud of, I am doing my best in this role also. But I am not made of iron. Like anybody else I can suffer from health or mental health issues.
“I very much hope the lies will stop. Some of the worst defamatory statements will be passed to my solicitor. But to the others who just spread these lies and unpleasant gossip, please stop. They are not true.”
Balsevics also escaped permanent business damage when licensing authorities and Cambridgeshire police cracked down on him for breaching Covid rules at the Angel on Christmas Eve, 2020.
He found out, once again, who is friends were as dozens wrote letters of support to dissuade Fenland Council licensing hearing from barring him continuing to run his mini empire of pubs.
Balsevics took a £1,000 fine on the chin whilst his lawyers argued his case and an appeal to the magistrates at Peterborough, lessened the impact by agreeing he could keep the license to run the Angel which Fenland licensing committee felt he should lose.
But what had become inescapable over recent years was the sense that few knew the real Aigars Balsevics, the one capable on the one hand of being a jovial, exuberant host and the other prone to moments of darkness and violence.
And as shown by the verdict one with a sense of entitlement.
The timetable of the weekend commencing May 21, 2021, though is when the harrowing events described in the trial took place and concluded when a jury (after the first trial failed to reach a verdict) found him guilty on two counts of rape.
For it was that weekend that Balsevics had ended his two-year reign in the civic spotlight, the first year as deputy and then as mayor of Wisbech.
At noon on Friday May 21, councillors and civic guests were, as town council minutes record, “seated in the garden of Wisbech Castle to await the mayoral party.
“Outgoing mayor Cllr Balsevics opened the meeting”.
It was the traditional part of the council’s annual assembly and annual meeting which was to conclude the following Tuesday in the council chamber.
“Cllr Hoy, the leader of the council, paid tribute to the outgoing mayor, Cllr Balsevics and invited him to give a short speech about his mayoral Year (2020/21),” the minutes record.
“Cllr Balsevics mentioned that having been unable to perform many of the usual duties of the mayor, he had, instead, devoted his time to helping people as part of the Wisbech Covid volunteer team,” records the minutes, presumably compiled by town clerk Terry Jordan.
Balsevics explained how he had gone about “doing shopping, collecting medications, and delivering shopping, as well as other assistance to elderly and vulnerable people in their time of need.
“The point was made by Cllr Balsevics that, despite many restrictions, he had been able to raise thousands of pounds for local charities and community groups; he read to members a list of those charities and groups and the respective funding that he had awarded.”
The minutes added: “The comment was made by Cllr Balsevics that his year as mayor had not been without issues, for which he is sorry.
“He made the point that he had, however, done his best in that role during a turbulent time, one which had affected many people in many ways.
“Cllr Balsevics stated that it had been an honour to have been the mayor of such an amazing town and that he would remember that time, despite the strange circumstances, for the rest of his life.”
That was on the Friday.
On the Monday, May 24, as we now know, a different, darker, and criminal side of Balsevics was taking shape.
That was the day he raped a woman. In Wisbech.
Balsevics was arrested in the early hours of the following day, Tuesday May 25.
And would have spent much of that day being questioned by detectives.
Which now explains, of course, his absence from the resumed annual meeting of the town council that evening.
Four other councillors not present had sent in their apologies.
Of Balsevics nothing was heard or said.
It would be January of the following year, when he was charged, that his name and the accusations became public.
The Conservatives suspended him, but he remained sitting as an independent town councillor until May this year. He did not put himself forward as a candidate for the local elections.
He did not stand again for re-election in May.
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