Retired vice-admiral Edmundson set to testify at his sexual assault trial

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

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, the military’s former head of human resources, is set to take the witness box today in an Ottawa courtroom where he has been on trial for sexual assault, accused of attacking a woman more than 30 years ago.

Edmundson, whose trial began last 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.

He has pleaded not guilty, and denied any wrongdoing. Edmundson 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.

Last week, court heard graphic details from the woman who claims she was assaulted by Edmundson. The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, also faced cross-examination by Edmundson’s lawyer Brian Greenspan, who attempted to raise questions about the credibility of her testimony.

Claims Edmundson exposed himself

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 laying 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.

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)

She testified on the evening of the alleged assault, the door to Edmundson’s quarters was ajar as she passed by and she heard Edmundson 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 Edmundson then grabbed her by the hips, turned her around and “proceeded raping me.”

When Edmundson takes the witness box, he is expected to refute the specific charges against him, and provide details about some of the questions Greenspan raised about the woman’s testimony during his cross-examination.

That might include Greenspan’s suggestion that Edmundson never had a bunkmate during the time the woman claims she had an outburst.

Greenspan may also ask Edmundson to provide more details about two encounters Greenspan suggested the woman had with his client.

Greenspan suggests another meeting occured

During cross-examination, Greenspan said that despite the woman having said she had no contact with Edmundson after the ship returned to Canada from its docking in the U.S., she in fact did meet with him one other time.

Greenspan suggested she arranged to meet him during a telephone conversation, that she met him in a truck near a bar she was at, that she wanted to see him, and asked him “how Cathy was.” Greenspan said it was during that meeting Edmundson clarified to her that he had not been seeing someone named Cathy.

The woman denied any such meeting ever took place, calling it “a lie” and “all made up.”

Greenspan also raised questions about the woman’s testimony that she had never been in Edmundson’s sleeping quarters except for the time of the alleged attack.

He said there was one time where she came into his sleeping quarters and tried to read tarot cards and have a tarot card reading, something the woman denied.

“Tarot cards? Someone has a good imagination,” she said.

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