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Duke of Edinburgh's ex-aide accused of abusing 12-year-old girl

NewsBy Sunday World
Benjamin Herman leaving court
Benjamin Herman leaving court

A woman has told a court that when she was a young girl she was sexually abused by a former personal assistant to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Benjamin Herman, 80, is accused of abusing the girl, who was aged around 12, in the early 1970s when he was serving as equerry to Prince Philip.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place at a house in south-west London used by military personnel, where Herman was living at the time.

He was a serving major in the Royal Marines on secondment as equerry, handling the Duke's private matters and engagements.

The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the jury at London's Blackfriars Crown Court that she felt "privileged" when Herman drove her to Buckingham Palace in his VW camper van.

"There was a security person who he spoke to and allowed us in," she recalled. "We circled around the forecourt and went out again."

The judge, Mr Justice Irwin, commented: "It must be the best known forecourt in England."

The woman, giving evidence from the witness box, explained that Herman discussed his relationship with the Royal Family.

"He told me that he often had charge of Prince Edward and Prince Andrew and he played football with them," she said.

Edmund Gritt, opening the case for the prosecution, explained Herman's position within the Royal Household.

"The role of equerry involved Mr Herman managing the Duke of Edinburgh's official diary and accompanying the Duke of Edinburgh on official engagements," he said.

"Mr Herman's office was in Buckingham Palace."

The alleged victim told the court of four occasions on which Herman sexually abused her in his home and in a nearby garage.

The alleged incident in the bedroom began when he overpowered her, jurors heard.

"He came in from the bathroom either dressed in a dressing gown or a towel and I was sitting on the edge of the double bed, at the end of it, and he forced me down with his weight on to the bed and lay on top of me," she said.

She told the court she could feel his penis pressed against her as he kissed her passionately "like you would kiss your lover", until she wriggled free.

More abuse allegedly took place in Herman's dining room after she helped him look after a pet.

"He was sitting down and he pulled me to him and gave me one of those kisses, then turned me around and put his hand up my top," she explained.

The woman also recalled an incident when he called her into his bathroom while his wife was downstairs.

She recalled that he was having a bath and tried to convince her to do "something sexual" with his erect penis. She was 12 years old at the time.

"There was gesturing," she said. "He looked at his penis and there was gesturing to me. I knew he wanted me to do something with his penis."

The alleged victim said that the incident in the garage took place when she was 13. She said the defendant pressed himself against her and she could feel his penis.

She told the court that she has since told friends what he did to her, but did not go to police until November 2012.

"I felt ashamed, I felt guilty, I felt dirty and I thought I would take this dirty little secret to my grave," she said.

The woman said she eventually went to the authorities after the abuse carried out by Jimmy Savile was made public. "I felt I couldn't suppress it any longer," she explained.

Nerida Harford-Bell, defending, put it to the woman: "I'm going to suggest that what you told the jury is all untrue. It may well be a fantasy that you built up about Mr Herman."

The alleged victim replied: "Well it's not a fantasy at all."

Herman, of Four Acre Coppice in Hook, listened to proceedings from the dock, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie.

He denies three counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 13 and one count of indecency with a child between January 1972 and January 1974.

The trial is expected to last for two weeks.