Haydn Edmundson takes witness stand in sexual assault trial


Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson took the stand in his sexual assault trial on Monday, telling the court he did not expose himself to the woman who accuses him of rape and indecent exposure more than 30 years ago.

The complainant, whose identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, testified for three days last week.

She said Edmundson was a senior officer and she was in the navy’s most junior rank when they were deployed together in 1991.

She testified that one of her responsibilities on board the ship was to wake officers for night watch, and that she woke Edmundson every second or third night.

Edmundson’s behaviour got progressively worse throughout the two months on board the ship that fall, she said, testifying that he started sleeping naked and leaving parts of his body exposed when she came to wake him.

On the stand Monday, Edmundson told the court he never slept naked on board the ship and that he never exposed himself to anyone who came to wake him.

He also testified that it was uncommon for him to be on a nighttime watch on that deployment because he was the ship’s navigator.

“Because of my rank and position, I stood fewer (night) watches than the more junior people,” he said. He said he verified this by checking the captain’s night order book, an informal but detailed record of the ship’s activities created by its captain and commanding officer.

When he did have to wake up for a night watch, Edmundson said he had a Timex wristwatch with an alarm. Asking for a wakeup call would have been a “backup to my normal alarm system,” he said.

Edmundson also testified that he was directed to retire in February 2022 after 39 years in the Armed Forces as a result of the charges against him.

Edmundson was one of a string of senior military leaders who were accused of sexual misconduct in early 2021, kicking off a crisis that resulted in an external review of the Armed Forces led by former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour.

At the time of the accusation against him, Edmundson was head of the military’s personnel. He stepped down in March 2021, when the allegation was made public, and charges were laid in December of that year.

The complainant testified last week that after one incident in which she found Edmundson fully naked and exposed, she “went berserk” and yelled at him, turning on the lights in his room.

It was one or two nights later, she said, that he sexually assaulted her.

She testified that the ship was docked at a U.S. port and she was off duty and planning to go onshore with friends. She was going to look for her friend’s misplaced glasses in the officer’s mess pantry, she said, when Edmundson called her into his sleeping quarters to talk.

The complainant said she was uncomfortable, but she went into his room to apologize for her earlier behaviour, then tried to leave.

She said Edmundson told her she was not dismissed, and she felt trapped and frozen. The complainant said he complimented her, kissed her and then raped her.

Edmundson has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The Crown’s case was dealt a blow Thursday during a withering cross-examination of a key witness who had corroborated the woman’s version of events.

The friend, whose identity is also protected by a publication ban, had testified that she remembered losing her glasses and that the complainant went to get them for her. She said she remembered looking for the complainant before leaving the ship that evening.

Edmundson’s defence lawyer, Brian Greenspan, introduced a transcript of an interview the witness did with the CBC before she went to police.

The transcript suggested that at the beginning of that interview, the CBC reporter appeared to disclose important details about the accuser’s story to the witness, including about the complainant searching for the glasses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

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