Canada

Retired vice-admiral Edmundson sexually assaulted woman after advances rejected, Crown charges

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson realized the empty, docked naval ship he was aboard offered his last chance to make advances on a woman, and then sexually assaulted her when she didn't respond, a Crown attorney charged on Tuesday.

Edmundson has pleaded not guilty, denies any wrongdoing

Two men in suits outside of a courthouse
Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, left, seen with his lawyer Brian Greenspan, faced cross-examination in an Ottawa courtroom Tuesday. Edmundson has been charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of committing indecent acts. He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

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

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson realized the empty, docked naval ship he was aboard offered his last chance to make advances on a woman, and then sexually assaulted her when she didn't respond, a Crown attorney charged on Tuesday.

During cross-examination in an Ottawa courtroom, Assistant Crown Attorney John Ramsay said to Edmundson that on that day more than 30 years ago, when the ship that he and the complainant served on had docked at a U.S. naval base, he saw the complainant walk by his cabin and ordered her inside.

"That's not true," Edmundson said.

Ramsay said to Edmundson that he then realized that with the vessel empty, as the crew had gone ashore, this was his last chance to get the complainant into his sleeping quarters and make his advance on her.

"That did not happen," Edmundson said.

And when the complainant didn't respond, Ramsay said, "that is when you decided to have sexual intercourse with [her]."

Edmundson repeated: "That did not happen."

WATCH | Edmundson testifies in his own defence: 

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.

Edmundson denies assault, exposing himself

On Monday, Edmundson made similar denials under questioning by his lawyer, Brian Greenspan, rejecting that he ever sexually assaulted or exposed himself to the complainant.

His testimony — the first time court had 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, and, days later, sexually assaulted her.

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. He 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.

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.

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.

Woman says she froze, feared for her life

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.

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 in this court sketch, is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone (Lauren Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

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."

Complainant would have 'stood out', Crown suggests

On Tuesday, Ramsay suggested to Edmundson that the complainant — who was young, and whose duties also included bartending for the officers — would have stood out on the ship.

"You may have had several women on board but [the complainant] stood out to you, correct?" Ramsay asked.

"In some ways, yes," Edmundson said.

"You found her attractive, correct?"

At that point, Edmundson's co-counsel, defence lawyer Naomi Lutes, interjected, telling court that recent case law has found it's not appropriate to ask whether an accused finds someone attractive or is attracted to them.

Edmundson told court he did engage in friendly conversation with the complainant while on board, mostly when she was bartending.

Ramsay asked if he had any concerns about her potentially hallucinating, or whether she exhibited signs that she was imagining things while in his presence.

"Not in my presence," Edmundson said.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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.