Dark new twist in MasterChef star’s sex probe
Four child witnesses could be called to testify against dumped MasterChef contestant Ben Ungermann as he fights allegations he sexually assaulted a teenage girl.
Ungermann, who was not required to attend court, will contest charges he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl while filming the reality cooking show in Melbourne in February.
Prosecutor Stephen Payne told the Melbourne Magistrates' Court there "doesn't appear to be any prospect of this matter resolving at this time".
The alleged assault took place in the Docklands on February 23.
Just days earlier Ungermann had announced to his Instagram followers he was appearing on the latest all-stars season of MasterChef.
The father-of-three was charged with two counts of sexual assault a fortnight later on March 6 following an investigation from Victoria Police's sex crimes squad.
Ungermann was slapped with an additional charge of sexual assault stemming from the February 23 incident.
Charge sheets released by the court reveal Ungermann allegedly intentionally sexually touched the alleged victim's breast without consent.
The 36-year-old, who returned to his home in Ipswich, Queensland after he was booted from the show, was not required to attend the brief mention.
The court heard four children may be called as witnesses at a contested hearing later in the year.
Their evidence is likely to be heard via video link from a remote facility.
The hearing could last up to a week, Mr Payne said.
The prosecution said the parties were "well and truly ready to proceed" with the case.
An episode of the show which aired in May saw MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo tell contestants Ungermann had left the competition for a "personal matter" and would not be returning.
The Ipswich gelato parlour owner has remained silent following revelations of the charges but shared a tweet from his Sydney-based lawyer Adam Houda following the airing of the episode.
"I act for Ben Ungermann," Adam Houda said on Twitter. "Allegations against my client are vehemently denied and will be defended."
Mr Houda later said: "My client is very distressed by the charges levelled against him. I am instructed that the allegations are a complete fabrication and are strenuously denied."
Mr Houda did not appearing during Thursday's court mention, but later confirmed he was still acting for Ungermann.
Ungermann will return to court for a contest mention on October 22.
He remains on bail.
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as Dark new twist in MasterChef star's sex probe