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Officer accused of rape says sex was consensual but 'fairly animal'

It is the first ever court martial that will be held on both sides of the Atlantic
It is the first ever court martial that will be held on both sides of the Atlantic

A married British Army officer raped an intoxicated junior colleague after a drink-fuelled UN event, an unprecedented trans-Atlantic court martial has heard.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Tomkins, 49, of Defence, Equipment and Support, attacked the woman in her room at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, where he went under false pretences, the trial in the US was told.

Joint Base Andrews in Maryland heard on Tuesday that Tomkins told investigators the sex was consensual but admitted "it wasn't rose petals or cupid's arrows, it was fairly animal".

It is the first ever court martial that will be held on both sides of the Atlantic in a move that allows witnesses to give evidence in the US before the court resumes in the UK next week.

The high-ranking officer, who appeared in court in uniform and is based at Abbey Wood, near Bristol, is alleged to have raped the woman following an African UN conference.

Members of the armed forces were treated to a drinks reception, a dinner and entertainment from African dancers on January 7 2015, before some continued drinking in the lobby bar.

Timothy Bradbury, prosecuting, said: "It appears to have been very much a social function and one in which alcohol was freely available."

By the end of the evening she was "very drunk" and Tomkins, who had been wearing his wedding ring, headed to her room after stopping by his own for a shower, the jury of seven British Army officers was told.

In a police interview played to court, the complainant said she was standing by her laptop when he approached and "instantly" began unzipping her dress.

She said he became "very aggressive" and "took control" when she declined his advances and pushed him away.

"He came in, shut the door and pretty much walked straight over to me.

"There was no banter, no discussion that I recall," she said in the emotional interview.

"He instantly tried unzipping my dress and tried making a move on me.

"There was no talking, no romantic lead up to something that I recall.

"He did get much more aggressive and used some level of force to take things further.

"I just remember him being on my bed and looking at him on top of me having sex with me.

"The room was spinning, it was a very brief memory."

She woke up to her alarm in the morning and the officer was gone.

They later exchanged messages and he thanked her for a "wonderful evening" to which she agreed.

She told investigators she feared reporting the incident or making by a scene would harm her career.

"The idea of being a woman in a man's world, you don't want to raise issues, you want to be professional and do your job," she said.

"I didn't want any man to interfere in my work because it's already so hard being a woman in a man's role."

It was only weeks after the incident, plagued by anxiety and insomnia, that she saw a psychiatrist and made a report to the FBI.

Mr Bradbury told the court the officer brushed off the allegations during his interview.

The prosecutor said: "He said the allegations were malicious and was made up by (the complainant) to avoid her own professional shortcomings.

"He said it wasn't rose petals or cupid's arrow, it was fairly animal."

Tomkins denies one count of rape between January 6-9 2015.

The trial, in front of Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett, is expected to head to Bulford, Wiltshire, on Monday after the prosecution's witnesses.