MasterChef star Ben Ungermann denies assaulting 16-year-old girl weeks after being 'cut out' from cooking show
The chef had mysteriously disappeared from the reality show last week, with many fams left wondering about his situation
Masterchef contestant Ben Ungermann has "vehemently denied" the allegations that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl in Melbourne where he was filming for the reality show and has promised to defend himself. Ungermann, 34, had left fans of 'Masterchef: Back to Win' talking when he suddenly disappeared from the show last week during a highly-anticipated episode where Katy Perry featured as the special guest.
Viewers were just told that he left the competition to deal with a "personal matter," only for it to then be revealed that he had been charged by Victorian sexual crime squad detectives on March 6 with two counts of sexual assault. Those charges were filed in connection to a February 23 incident with a 16-year-old girl in Melbourne, where he was filming 'Masterchef,' according to the Daily Mail. He was arrested in the Docklands, on Melbourne's fringe, by detectives from the Melbourne Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team the same day.
Victoria Police confirmed that he had been arrested and said, "The arrest follows an investigation into an alleged sexual assault in Docklands on 23 February. A 34-year-old Queensland man has been charged with two counts sexual assault. We can confirm the alleged victim is a 16-year-old girl."
It initially appeared that the arrest would have no impact on his appearance on 'Masterchef.' Just two days after his arrest, his face was used in ads that featured in numerous newspapers with the headline, "Ungermann back for fresh serve of Masterchef."
The producers reportedly held crisis talks in March about Ungermann, and in an "emergency meeting," the show's editors are said to have been instructed to "cut him out the best you can." His arrest came as a shock to network bosses, with one source saying, "No one could have imagined something like that would ever happen."
It had also prompted a spokesperson for Endemol Shine to issue a brief statement to the media. "We can confirm Ben Ungermann has left the MasterChef Australia competition. As this is a police matter, we will not be making further comment," they said.
But it was unclear at that time why he had departed the show. Fans only began suspecting something was amiss last week when he was noticeably missing on the Katy Perry special, which was filmed in March. They feared he had been let go. Their suspicions were all but confirmed when Tommy Smith Cafe at Woodlands of Marburg estate in Queensland announced they had hired him and that he had already created a special Indonesian menu for the venue. The resort shared a photo of Ungermann standing outside the front of the building with the caption, "Woodlands of Marburg is proud to introduce new Gourmet Chef Ben Ungermann to the Woodlands family. Many new exciting adventures ahead."
Ungermann is set to deny all the allegations leveled against him and has hired top criminal lawyer Adam Houda to represent him in court. Houda, who has 24 years of experience in criminal law, said his client had been blindsided by the charges. "My client is distressed by the charges, which came as a huge shock to him," he said. "The allegations, I am instructed, are a complete fabrication and are denied."
Ungermann is listed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on June 25.