The Angel, Wisbech, had, for some time, been 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 13 years after the Latvian pub and bars entrepreneur moved into the town, he found 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 Pole, who had moved to Wisbech following the lifting of EU border restrictions in 2004.
Tory politicians liked him 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.
Whatever prison sentence he faces, and it will be steep, there will be no hiding place, no place of refuge or friends to call on for support.
And no likelihood of enticing any of the 300 supporters on Facebook who reacted with a ‘like’ to his essay on depression he posted 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 did meet 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 and in 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) deemed in 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”.
“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.
Outgoing mayor 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.
While there he raped the victim, 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 the property and Balsevics left.
The victim reported what happened to Cambridgeshire police.
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.
Balsevics will be sentenced on August 11.
Cambridgeshire police reminded us today of the one person who matters in all of this.
Det Con 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.”
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