An Army officer ‘100 per cent’ let down his wife when he ‘chickened out’ of reporting a high-ranking colleague ‘for groping her bottom’ on a hospital visit to see her son, a court martial heard.
Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Edwards has been accused of ‘trying his luck’, believing he could ‘get away with a quick grope’, before telling the woman’s husband: ‘Sorry mate I didn’t mean anything by it’.
The respected officer, 59, was queuing with the woman at a hospital coffee shop when he allegedly ran his hand down her back ‘over her left buttock, and squeezed her right buttock’.
He had been visiting Bristol Children’s Hospital to check on the soldier, his wife and their son after the boy was involved in a serious accident.
Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire today heard how the solider was outraged when his wife told him about the alleged incident, but failed to act and she ended up having to report it herself.
Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Edwards has been accused of ‘trying his luck’, believing he could ‘get away with a quick grope’, Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire heard
Lt Col Edwards and his colleague were working together and the incident ‘complicated’ their relationship and caused ‘tension’ and ‘public fallings out’.
The soldier told the court his ‘shocked and angry’ wife demanded he report it with the chain of the command and he reassured her ‘I will deal with it’.
But he failed to report it within the Army, saying Lt Col Edwards was retiring and so he didn’t want to burden him with the allegation.
He also failed to confront Lt Col Edwards in a ‘man to man discussion’ while on deployment to Oman after the incident, despite telling his wife he would do so.
Lt Col Edwards then received a promotion after they returned from Oman and took on a senior position.
When it was suggested to him these were excuses for failing to report him, the soldier told the court: ‘Yeah, I chickened out.’
Months after the alleged sexual assault, the woman resorted to reporting the matter to police herself.
Giving evidence, she said her husband ‘100 per cent let her down’.
Lt Col Edwards had been visiting Bristol Children’s Hospital (pictured) to check on the soldier, his wife and their son after the boy was involved in a serious accident
She added: ‘My husband has let me down as he’s not supported me one bit in trying to get something done to Lt Col Edwards.
‘He should have reported it to his chain of command. I asked him on several occasions.’
After the woman – who can’t be identified for legal reasons – reported the alleged sexual assault, her husband finally brought it up at his retiring boss’s leaving do.
Lt Col Edwards’ defence lawyer claims he only did this because he was worried his own job was at risk. At the time, the officer was being investigated for his behaviour amid a fallout with his colleague.
The Lieutenant Colonel today told the court he has ‘no attraction’ to his alleged victim and claimed she made the accusations to save her husband from being dismissed from the Army.
The high ranking officer, giving evidence for the first time, claimed the woman was ‘exaggerating’ any possible contact to protect her husband.
He claimed the soldier faced being dismissed ‘and even a court martial’ because his behaviour was being investigated following two ‘outbursts’ made towards Lt Col Edwards during nights out.
The prosecution claim these outbursts, months after the alleged sexual assault, were a direct consequence of the incident but Lt Col Edwards has argued otherwise.
He told the hearing: ‘He was going to be removed from his post because of his insubordination investigation, two of them in fact. It could have led to dismissal and even a court martial. She made the complaint to support her husband.
‘I believe it has been exaggerated to support her husband.
‘She might have thought there was some touching, which was not me, and then took something and run with it while her husband had his insubordination investigation.’
Lt Col Edwards maintained he didn’t grope her bottom, saying: ‘I had no attraction to her. I didn’t grope her. It was a pretty broken scene when I got [to the hospital].
‘[The husband] almost broke down crying, [the alleged victim] was really heightened, very high pitched but pleased we were there.
‘We went off to get coffee… We went to a vending machine, I didn’t buy anything. She got something from the vending machine… and we went back upstairs.
‘Then by the bedside she turned to me and her husband and mentioned that she believed I patted her bottom. To be honest, all I could say was “did I?” because I was absolutely shocked.
‘I did not pat, grope or squeeze her bottom, I did no such thing. And I did not run my hand down her back.
‘I had no intention of touching her. If I touched her I have no knowledge of doing so. I was completely unaware of it.’
Lt Col Edwards claimed weeks after the incident he visited the family’s home for dinner and there was no ‘frostiness’ and he and the woman chatted as normal.
Bulford Military Court yesterday heard Lt Col Edwards groped the woman while he visited the hospital to check on the soldier, his wife and their son after the boy was involved in a serious accident.
Prosecutor William Peters said: ‘This was Lt Col Edwards trying his luck in the hospital thinking he could get away with a quick grope.’
Lt Col Edwards, of the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering at MoD Lyneham, Wilts, denies one count of sexual assault.
The trial continues.