Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya’s former campaign manager tells court ‘he had no choice but to turn her in’

Fiona Onasanya
Fiona Onasanya

Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya’s former head of communications told a court her election as ‘one of the happier days’ of his life - but said he had no choice but to turn her in after her car was caught speeding on his road.

Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya, (35), is said to have claimed a Russian man was behind the wheel of her Nissan Micra when it was caught doing 41mph in a 30pmh zone in a Cambridgeshire village.

But the Old Bailey heard the nominated driver was over 1,000 miles away in his homeland with his parents.

During her first trial her campaign communications manager dramatically came forward to tell the police Ms Onasanya had been at his home in Thorney near the speed camera on the night it was activated.

Dr Christian DeFeo and his wife Caroline Earle had read online press reports of Ms Onasanya’s first trial in the Peterborough Telegraph and he described having ‘no choice’ but to come forward.

The couple remembered the MP visited them at their home on The Causeway in Thorney, on the evening she is said to have committed the speeding offence.

Giving evidence today Dr DeFeo told jurors: ‘I was aware of the first trial taking place, but I was not aware of where the offence allegedly happened.

‘My wife contacted me via Facebook. She was in the office and I was at home.

‘She sent me a message pointing to an article in the Peterborough Telegraph.

‘What caught her attention was the fact that, unbeknownst to us, the offence had taken place on The Causeway in Peterborough.

‘This is very close to where we lived - in fact it is the very same road on which we were living at the time.’

Jurors were shown screenshots of the couple’s efforts to ‘figure out’ whether she had been to their house the night the camera was triggered.

‘She must have been to our house????’ Ms Earle wrote.

‘Was she with us? If so, she’s lying.’

Dr DeFeo checked his emails and confirmed that she was at their home on July 24 to discuss a meeting with the local council the following day.

When she was told of the find, his wife replied: ‘Got her.’

He continued: ‘We had a brief discussion as to what to do.

‘I believe that she phoned me, and I said we have no choice – we have to talk to the police.

‘Morally and legally we have to do this.

‘I was very reluctant to do it. I’d rather not have to do this at all.

‘I put in quite a lot of time and effort and her election was one of the happier days of my life.

‘I wanted her to be a great MP.’

Describing himself as an online community specialist, Dr DeFeo told jurors he volunteered for the role in the build-up to the vote and met Onasanya relatively frequently after she was elected to Parliament in June last year.

‘I was in regular contact with her by email,’ he explained.

‘She came to my house three or four times.’

Dr DeFeo told the court he wrote most of the press releases and speeches issued during Onasanya’s campaign run and also penned a ‘Westminster Life’ column on her behalf in the local newspaper.

He also ‘wrote the bulk’ of her maiden speech in the House of Commons, the court heard.

Dr DeFeo said that Ms Onasanya was working with him in his capacity as chairman of the Paston Farm Community Foundation.

The charity did not have a lease in place and so Dr DeFeo sought advice from Onasanya, who is also a qualified lawyer.

Asked what time she arrived on 24 July, he said: ‘I don’t know specifically. However, she stayed with us until quite late.’

He told jurors the meeting lasted for ‘hours’ that evening, adding that by the end of it: ‘She said she was tired and we offered her a place to stay.’

Dr DeFeo told the court he had never seen anyone but Ms Onasanya behind the wheel of her car.

The court has heard how part of the subsequent investigation into the alleged offence examined mobile phone cell site evidence.

The data showed both of the politician’s mobile phones connecting with masts in the area close to the traffic camera at the time it was triggered.

Asked about Ms Onasanya’s relationship with her phones at the time, Dr DeFeo told jurors: ‘I don’t recall seeing her without them.

‘She was attached to them. She would have them on her at all times.’

After working as a solicitor, Ms Onasanya took her seat in the Houses of Parliament in 2017 with a majority of 607 votes.

She ousted former Conservative MP Stewart Jackson and became a party whip, responsible for discipline within Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Ms Onasanya, from Peterborough, denies one count of perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.