Retired Vice Admiral Haydn Edmundson took the stand at his sexual assault trial Monday, denying he had sexual or physical contact with the woman who accuses him of raping her on a military ship more than 30 years ago.

The plaintiff, 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 aboard the ship was to wake the officers for the night watch and that she woke Edmundson every two or three nights.

Edmundson's behavior progressively worsened over the two months aboard the ship that fall, she said, testifying that he began sleeping naked and leaving parts of his body exposed when she came to wake him.

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

He also testified that it was unusual for him to be on night watch on that deployment because he was the ship's navigator.

“Because of my rank and position, I held fewer (night) vigils than younger 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 needed to wake up for a night watch, Edmundson said he had a Timex wristwatch with an alarm. Asking for a wake-up call would have been a “backup to my normal alarm system,” he said.

Edmundson also testified that he was told to retire in February 2022, after 39 years in the military, as a result of the allegations against him.

He was one of several senior military leaders accused of sexual misconduct in early 2021, triggering a crisis that resulted in an external review of the Armed Forces led by former Supreme Court judge Louise Arbour.

Edmundson stepped down as chief of military personnel in March 2021 when the allegation became public. The charges were laid in December of that year.

The complainant testified last week that she was assigned to wake Edmundson one night in early November 1991, when she found him completely naked and exposed. She said she “went crazy” and screamed at him, turning on the lights in his room.

It was a night or two 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 disembark with friends. She was going to look for her friend's missing glasses in the officers' mess pantry, she said, when Edmundson called her to her dorm to talk.

The complainant said she felt uncomfortable but went into his room to apologize for her previous behavior and then tried to leave.

She said Edmundson told her she wasn't let go and that she felt trapped and frozen. The complainant said he praised her, kissed her and then raped her.

Edmundson denied on Monday that any of this happened, testifying about his typical routine when the ship was in port and telling the court that he remembered spending two of the four nights ashore during this particular call, although he did not remember which nights.

When asked by his defense lawyer if he had any physical or sexual contact with the complainant during that port call, he replied: “No, I didn't.”

“Did anyone during his career come into his cabin and have the kind of outburst that (the complainant) described in this court?” asked defense attorney Brian Greenspan.

“Never,” said Edmundson.

According to his testimony, Edmundson barely remembered interacting with the complainant during the 1991 deployment.

The Crown's case suffered a blow Thursday during Greenspan's cross-examination of a key witness who corroborated the complainant's version of events.

The friend, whose identity is also protected by the publication ban, 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 night.

The complainant testified that she could hear her friend looking for her while she was in Edmundson's dormitory shortly before the attack and while it was occurring.

When questioning her friend, Greenspan produced a transcript of an interview she had done with the CBC before speaking to police.

The transcript suggested that, at the beginning of the interview, the CBC reporter revealed to the witness important details about the accuser's story, including the complainant's search for his glasses.

Edmundson is expected to face Crown questioning on Tuesday.

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