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This article was published 5/3/2020 (266 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NASSAU, Bahamas — They share a common, traumatic experience — all have accused Peter Nygard of raping them as girls.
Years later, as they describe the horror, their ability to recall precise details is striking.
One vividly recalls the tears streaming down her face during the attack.
Another says Lionel Ritchie's 1984 song Stuck on You played on a loop as she was raped.
A third remembers the disturbing nature of the pornography playing on a TV when she says the Winnipeg fashion mogul sexually assaulted her.
They were 14 and 15 years old.
They are among the seven women the Free Press spoke with this week who have accused Nygard of rape. The interviews were conducted over the course of several days in two private residences in the Bahamas.
Six of the women were teenagers when Nygard — who is the subject of a class-action lawsuit, a U.S. federal law enforcement investigation and mounting rape accusations — allegedly assaulted them.
Three of them said the assaults were their first sexual experiences.
“A lot of people will have stories about their first kiss, their first date. I didn’t have that experience. I was robbed of a lot of things I could never get back.”
"A lot of people will have stories about their first kiss, their first date. I didn’t have that experience. I was robbed of a lot of things I could never get back," one said.
Nygard, 78, maintains his innocence, even as he finds himself in the crosshairs of a joint child-exploitation task force probe. On Feb. 25, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department raided Nygard’s international headquarters in Times Square.
Nygard, speaking through his attorneys, claims to be at the centre of an elaborate conspiracy to ruin his reputation by people with a personal vendetta against him.
Two women have publicly attached their names to rape allegations: Richette Ross, 35, and Tamika Ferguson, 32.
Ross — whose allegations were reported in Monday's Free Press — is currently a participant in the class-action suit; Ferguson is considering adding her name.
Ross, who was employed at Nygard’s lavish gated estate in the Bahamas from 2009 to 2014 as a massage therapist, said her boss drugged and raped her in February 2014.
"I don’t think you can believe a thing Richette Ross says. She’ll say anything that she can that suits her purposes," said Jay Prober, one of Nygard’s attorneys.
Ferguson, 32, an orphan from an impoverished background, said Nygard raped her when she was 16 years old.
“I don’t think you can believe a thing Richette Ross says. She’ll say anything that she can that suits her purposes." — Peter Nygard attorney Jay Prober
"I can tell you that Nygard vehemently denies the malicious allegations made by her," Prober said.
The Free Press has agreed not to name the five other women to protect their identities.
Similar patterns emerge in their stories: young girls lured to Nygard’s estate with promises of modelling gigs and money who then find themselves locked in his bedroom and allegedly raped.
The women say they were often invited to the parties by people Nygard employed as "recruiters." The recruiters knew Nygard’s type and would allegedly go out in search of girls to invite to his "pamper parties."
The University of Bahamas campus and Nygard’s now-shuttered retail shop at the Mall at Marathon were common recruiting grounds, sources said.
The Free Press also spoke to multiple former employees — who requested anonymity — who provided information consistent with the alleged rape victims’ accounts.
One woman, who now works as a schoolteacher, said she was invited to a pamper party when she was 15, and went with a group of friends.
She was aware of Nygard through local news coverage — he was portrayed as a good, charitable person who gave back to the Bahamas, she said — but had never met him.
Upon arrival at the estate, dubbed "Nygard Cay," she said she was taken aback by the glitz, glamour and luxury of the oceanfront property.
"I had never, never saw anything like that in my life," she said, adding she thought the estate was like paradise.
"Paradise wasn’t paradise… it was hell."
The woman said she had "two cups" of Baileys Irish Cream and ate a meal, before she was introduced to Nygard. She said he lured her to his bedroom under false pretenses and raped her while a Lionel Ritchie song played.
"He played it over and over and over," she said, adding she was scared and feeling like she had no one to turn to for help.
"I just laid there with tears rolling down my face. He started making this funny noise. He was making this funny noise. He sounded like an animal, a wild animal. And I just cried until he stopped," she said.
Afterwards, she said Nygard offered her money, but she refused and left, never returning.
She said she did not tell anyone what happened for a long time, but wrote entries in her diary to God about the alleged attack.
“I just laid there with tears rolling down my face. He started making this funny noise. He was making this funny noise. He sounded like an animal, a wild animal. And I just cried until he stopped.”
"I told God that I did not know that we had these kinds of monsters in this world," she said through tears.
"And then I asked Him, ‘Why me?’"
Another woman, who said she was raped by Nygard at 14, says she attended two pamper parties with her mother in August 2011, where they would have "mother-daughter time," getting free pedicures and manicures, and eating free food.
She went alone a third time and said her mother didn't know.
"It didn’t seem like somebody could hurt all these women. It didn’t seem like somebody could hurt me…. It seemed harmless. It seemed harmless — until it wasn’t," she said.
She said Nygard plied her with alcohol and drugs, promising her he was going to change her life and make her a model. Eventually, as she was incapacitated, she said he led her to his bedroom and raped her. Afterwards, he handed her an envelope of cash, she said.
She continued to go to pamper parties for roughly six years, Nygard considering her as one of his "girlfriends," she said, adding he never touched her again after he raped her that night, although he would try again years later.
She was unable to explain to the Free Press her reasons for returning to the estate for years after the alleged assault. She said Nygard continued to give her money and repeatedly tried to fly her to the U.S. and Canada to accompany him on trips, even though she was a teenager in secondary school much of that time.
She declined the invitations, she said, because her mother didn’t know what was going on and would ask questions if she started travelling. To this day, her mother still doesn’t know what she said happened to her.
"I’m afraid to tell her that despite her awesome attempts to be a good mother, I was still a victim," she said. "I don’t think I’ll ever have that trust in people ever again."
Ten women accused Nygard of drugging, raping and sodomizing them in a class-action lawsuit filed Feb. 13 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The law firm handling the case said 50 women — including dozens of Canadians and at least one Winnipegger — have approached them with similar claims.
The accusations span five countries, three continents and four decades. Nygard maintains his innocence. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Prober said the women making the accusations lack credibility and are being bought off by Louis Bacon, an American hedge-fund billionaire, and Nygard’s neighbour in the Bahamas.
The two men have waged a highly publicized feud for years. The spat has turned increasingly vitriolic, spawning more than two dozen lawsuits, and accusations of insider trading, murder plots and membership in the Ku Klux Klan.
"Nygard can only surmise (these people are) arranged by his billionaire Bahamian neighbour Louis Bacon, who has perpetrated this conspiracy to damage him," Prober said.
But the woman now working as a schoolteacher pushed back against that defence, calling Nygard a predator who "scarred my heart for life."
The terror and helplessness she experienced in Nygard's bedroom led her to where she is now, she said.
"I went to school to become a teacher so that I can protect my babies and look after them in my care, hoping that no predator can ever order them or fool them, or — at least — they can come and tell me if something ever happens to them," she said.
"I always felt the need to protect the kids, the small babies… I wanted to be someone who could protect the babies."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.