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Lawyer for retired vice-admiral Edmundson tells court: 'No sexual assault occurred'

Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, left, charged with one count of sexual assault and one count indecent exposure, heads into an Ottawa courtroom Wednesday morning accompanied by his lawyer Brian Greenspan. Edmundson has pleaded not guilty and denied all wrongdoing. (Mark Gollom/CBC - image credit)
Retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, left, charged with one count of sexual assault and one count indecent exposure, heads into an Ottawa courtroom Wednesday morning accompanied by his lawyer Brian Greenspan. Edmundson has pleaded not guilty and denied all wrongdoing. (Mark Gollom/CBC - image credit)

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

Haydn Edmundson never sexually assaulted the woman who has accused him of attacking her more than 30 years ago in his sleeping quarters aboard a docked naval vessel, the retired vice admiral's lawyer suggested in an Ottawa court on Wednesday.

"I suggest to you the fact that on November 8th, 1991, you were never in Lieutenant Commander Edmundson's, sleeping quarters. That no sexual assault occurred on that night or on any other night," Brian Greenspan said during his second day of cross examination.

"That's incorrect," the woman told court.

Edmundson, whose sexual assault trial began 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.

Edmundson has pleaded not guilty, and denied any wrongdoing. He has since resigned as head of military personnel command and retired from Canada's Armed Forces.

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 being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone

Edmundson, seated on the far right beside his lawyers, is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice by a judge alone (Lauren Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

Greenspan ended his cross-examination of the woman Wednesday afternoon by suggesting that, despite her 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 where 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.

But the woman denied any such meeting ever took place, calling it "a lie."

'This is all made up'

"There was no conversation. There was no meeting. There was no interaction with lieutenant commander Edmundson," she said. "[After] he left the ship. I've never heard of him. I've never spoken to him. I didn't know he had a truck or someone in his life named Cathy. This is 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.

For the three days the woman was in the witness box, court heard about her duties about the ship, which included waking up officers for their night shift, including Edmundson.

She testified that on one particular mission, Edmundson would moan when she would come to wake him, and that he began exposing his body parts.

She said in one instance, just a couple days before that alleged sexual assault, she'd had an outburst when she went to wake Edmundson up for his night shift and found him laying in the bed naked.

The woman said she lost her composure, yelled and turned the lights on in the quarters so that the other officer who was sleeping in the top bunk could witness the behaviour she had to deal with.

She said, days later when she passed Edmundson's quarters, his door was ajar and she heard Edmundson shout for her to come speak with him.

She said when she went inside his cabin, she was nervous, didn't know what to say and decided to apologize for her previous outburst. She said that when she turned to leave, Edmundson said, "I didn't tell you you could go."

'Was in danger'

The woman said at that point she knew she "was in danger."

She said at some point she heard her friend outside his quarters, shouting her name and looking for her, but that she didn't respond after Edmundson put two of his fingers on her mouth and asked her how it would look if someone knew the two of them were alone in his quarters.

But Greenspan questioned why she didn't respond.

"So you hear someone['s] voice and a response is, 'I'm here.' How does he have any time to stop you from doing that in any realistic way?"

"Because he was speaking to me. I couldn't cut off his conversation to say something to someone else. I had to pay respect. He was an officer," she said.

The woman testified that Edmundson kept complimenting her and saying how beautiful she was. She said he began stroking her hair, then kissed her on the cheek and then on the mouth.

Woman says she froze

She said she froze as Edmundson unbuttoned her shirt and bra, pulled down her shorts and underwear and kissed her vagina.

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

Greenspan asked the woman to clarify previous statements that Edmundson "sort of pushed you into the wall."

The woman said she meant that he didn't do it violently, that he was "moving me to the wall."

But she disagreed with Greenspan when he suggested that it was impossible for Edmundson to push her against an empty wall because the wall was completely covered by lockers.

The woman also previously testified that, when she finally met up with the friend who had been looking for her after the alleged attack, she told her friend, "I slept with Edmundson but I don't want to talk about it."

Under questioning by Greenspan, the woman agreed it was possible she never mentioned Edmundson by name and instead just said an officer, but that she was "95 per cent sure" she had disclosed who had been involved.

She also agreed with Greenspan that she never told her friend she had been assaulted or raped by Edmundson.

Admiral sleeping alone, court hears

Earlier in the day, Greenspan zeroed in on other parts of her previous testimony. He suggested she could not have woken up Edmundson's bunkmate during that alleged outburst over seeing his naked body exposed because the retired vice-admiral was sleeping alone during that time.

"I suggest to you the reason you haven't been able to identify a co-sleeper is that ..... [then] lieutenant commander Edmundson had no co sleeper," Edmundson's lawyer Brian Greenspan said in an Ottawa courtroom Wednesday morning.

"That is incorrect," the woman said

Brian Greenspan, lawyer for retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, cross examines the woman who alleges the retired vice-admiral sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago.
Brian Greenspan, lawyer for retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, cross examines the woman who alleges the retired vice-admiral sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago.

Brian Greenspan, lawyer for retired vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, cross examines the woman who alleges the retired vice-admiral sexually assaulted her more than 30 years ago. (Lauren Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

Greenspan, during cross-examination, suggested to the woman that Edmundson did have a roommate, but he had departed before the alleged outburst incident occurred, meaning Edmundson did not have a roommate at that time.

"Isn't that the truth," Greenspan asked.

"That is not the truth," the woman responded.

Greenspan also raised questions about the woman claiming to have seen Edmundson's exposed genitals, suggesting that was not possible because Edmundson "never slept without underwear."

The woman again said that that was incorrect.

Heated exchanges

The testimony involved a series of heated exchanges between Greenspan and the woman, who was, at times, overcome by emotion.

During one testy exchange over the identify of the alleged bunkmate of Edmundson, the woman turned to Justice Matthew C. Webber to complain that Greenspan was pointing a finger at her and that it was a microaggression.

"I would ask that he refrain from pointing fingers like this and that he can keep this conversation respectful," she said. "I will not accept any microaggressions."

Webber asked that they lower the temperature.

The trial continues on Thursday.