Canada

Retired vice-admiral Edmundson denies sexual assault, exposing himself to woman, court hears

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson denied in an Ottawa courtroom that he sexually assaulted or exposed himself to a woman who claims he attacked her while on deployment on a naval ship more than 30 years ago.

Crown set to cross-examine Edmundson on Tuesday

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson arrives to court in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson denied in an Ottawa courtroom that he sexually assaulted or exposed himself to a woman who claims he attacked her while on deployment on a naval ship more than 30 years ago. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

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

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson denied in an Ottawa courtroom on Monday that he sexually assaulted or exposed himself to a woman who claims he attacked her while on deployment on a naval ship more than 30 years ago.

"The early evening of Nov. 8, 1991, did you kiss, embrace or engage in any sexual contact with [the complainant]?" his lawyer, Brian Greenspan, asked.

"No, I did not," Edmundson said.

He also denied he came into any physical or sexual contact with the complainant on that date or that she had been alone with him in his cabin.

Earlier on Monday, Edmundson, who is trial for sexual assault and committing indecent acts, also denied he had ever exposed himself to the woman or anyone who was assigned to wake him up for his duties as night watch.

His testimony — the first time court has heard from him since the trial began a week ago — countered statements made by the woman, who has accused him of attacking her in November 1991. She previously told court that Edmundson exposed himself to her when she went to awaken him as part of her duties.

The woman, whose name is protected under a publication ban, testified that this incident had happened just a couple of days before he allegedly sexually assaulted her and was part of a progressive behaviour in which he had exposed parts of his body to her on other occasions of being awakened.

Edmundson, 60, was charged in December 2021, with one count of sexual assault and one count of committing indecent acts. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. Edmundson has since resigned as head of military personnel command.

He has also retired from the Canadian Armed Forces, something he was directed to do in February 2022, following being charged in this case, he told the court on Monday. He said he is currently unemployed.

On Monday, he was asked by Greenspan if he had any recollection of "having been exposed" to those who would have been assigned to wake him up for his night watch duty.

"I do not," Edmundson said.

"Did you progressively expose yourself to [the complainant]?" Greenspan asked.

"No, I did not."

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 shown in an Ottawa courtroom last week as the woman who claims he sexually assaulted her testifies in the witness box. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

Edmundson also testified he didn't recall the complainant ever coming into his cabin to wake him up and that he didn't have a bunkmate on the date at which she alleges she had her outburst.

Edmundson is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone. Court has heard that the alleged assault took place on a ship as it was docked at a U.S. navy base on Nov. 8, 1991. At the time of the alleged assault, Edmundson was lieutenant-commander, the navigator of the ship.

Claims Edmundson exposed himself

Last week, the woman told court that her duties aboard the ship included waking up officers, including Edmundson, for their night shift. She testified that on one particular mission, some of Edmundson's body parts would be exposed when she would go to wake him.

She said in one instance, a couple of days before the alleged sexual assault, she'd had an outburst when she went to wake Edmundson for his night shift and found him lying in the bed naked. The woman said she lost her composure, yelled and turned on the lights, in part to wake up Edmundson's bunkmate so he could witness the behaviour she had to deal with.

WATCH | Edmundson says he was directed to retire in 2022: 

Retired military HR head testifies own defence at sexual assault trial

3 months ago
Duration 1:56
Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson testified in his own defence at trial. The former head of human resources for the military is charged with one count of committing indecent acts and one count of sexual assault.

On Monday, Greenspan asked Edmundson if any of that occurred.

"No that did not happen," he said.

Edmundson told court that he had reviewed the captain's night order book, in which officers record their initials when they would go on night watch.

He said that according to the book, he wasn't on night watch duty on the night that the complainant says she had her outburst. He said that during that particular deployment, the last time he'd been on night watch was Oct. 31.

Edmundson also told court that he never slept naked and always wore undershorts and a shirt.

Court hears graphic details of alleged assault

Last week, court heard graphic details from the woman about the alleged assault.

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

She told the court that while in his cabin, she froze and feared for her life as Edmundson approached her, kissed her, unbuttoned her shirt and bra, pulled down her shorts and underwear and kissed her vagina.

She told the court that Edmundson then grabbed her by the hips, turned her around and "proceeded raping me."

The Crown is set to cross-examine Edmundson on Tuesday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.