Advertisement

Woman told friend she slept with 'a senior officer,' trial of retired vice-admiral Edmundson hears

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson arrives to court in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson arrives to court in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details of an alleged sexual assault.

A retired member of Canada's Armed Forces who served on a navy vessel with the woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson testified that the complainant appeared "horrified" on the evening of the alleged attack, and told her she had "slept with a senior officer."

The retired service member, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, also backed up the complainant's testimony that she had gone to search for the complainant on that vessel that same evening, more than 30 years ago.

Edmundson, whose sexual assault trial began Monday, is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone. He was charged in December 2021 with one count of sexual assault and one count of committing indecent acts.

Edmundson has pleaded not guilty, and denied any wrongdoing. He has since resigned as head of military personnel command and retired from Canada's Armed Forces.

Court has heard that the alleged assault took place on a ship as it was docked at a U.S. navy base in November 1991. At the time of the alleged assault, Edmundson was lieutenant commander, the navigator of the ship.

The witness told an Ottawa courtroom on Thursday that she was a colleague and friend of the complainant and that they had agreed to all go to a bar on land because their vessel had just docked at the U.S. naval base.

The witness said before they departed the ship and went to the bar, the complainant had agreed to go get the witness's reading glasses located in a pantry. She said that after some time, when the complainant didn't return, she searched for the complainant on the vessel, calling out her name.

The witness testified that she then had another colleague join the search. When neither could find the woman, they assumed she had already left the ship and was already at the bar, the witness testified, so they went to the bar.

'Horrified look in her face'

Eventually, the witness saw her friend, the complainant, enter the bar, she testified.

"She came in and I came up to her and I said 'Where were you? I've been looking for you everywhere,'" retired service member testified. "And then she had this horrified look in her face. And I said 'Where were you?  And I asked what's wrong.'

"Her mouth was shaking, trembling. She said, 'I got to talk to you.' And then she pulled me aside, and then she said, 'You can't tell anybody but I slept with an officer.'

Edmundson, seated on the far right beside his lawyers,  is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone
Edmundson, seated on the far right beside his lawyers, is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone

Edmundson, seated on the far right beside his lawyers, is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

"She said ...  'Correct me, I slept with a senior officer.' And the music was loud. So that I heard senior officer."

The witness said the complainant told her to swear never to tell anyone about it. The witness also told court that the complainant was very reserved, "very shaky and very nervous."

"I said, 'You know, you're going to get in trouble if somebody finds out. So she says, 'I know.' She said 'That's why I don't want you to tell anybody."

The complainant, who spent three days on the witness box, had previously told court that, that night at the bar, she had said to the witness: "I slept with Edmundson but I don't want to talk about it."

Under cross examination on Wednesday, the complainant agreed it was possible she never mentioned Edmundson by name and instead just said an officer, but that she was "95 per cent sure" she had disclosed who had been involved.

Complainant found officer naked, court hears

Court heard that the woman's duties aboard the ship included waking up officers for their night shift, including Edmundson.

She testified that on one particular mission, when she would go to wake up Edmundson, some of his body parts would be exposed.

She said in one instance, just a couple days before that alleged sexual assault, she'd had an outburst when she went to wake Edmundson up for his night shift and found him laying in the bed naked.

The woman said she lost her composure, yelled and turned the lights on in the quarters.

Days later, on the evening of the alleged assault, she testified that when she passed Edmundson's quarters, his door was ajar and she heard Edmundson shout for her to come speak with him.

She testified that while in his cabin, at some point she heard her friend outside his quarters, shouting her name and looking for her, but that she didn't respond after Edmundson put two of his fingers on her mouth and asked her how it would look if someone knew the two of them were alone in his quarters.

The woman testifed that  Edmundson then sexually assaulted her in the cabin.

The trial continues this afternoon, with cross examination of the witness.