Rape-accused British Army officer claims they joked about working naked together

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A married senior British Army officer accused of raping a subordinate has told a court martial trial that they joked about working naked together in her "hot and sweaty" African hotel room before they had consensual sex.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Tomkins, of Defence, Equipment and Support, is accused of attacking the woman in her room at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Uganda, after a UN meeting and dinner on January 7 2015.

The 49-year-old told Bulford Military Court that he had enjoyed working with the complainant during the meeting that day and was pleased when she sat next to him at the evening dinner.

Describing her, he said she was a "genuine professional" and added: "She seemed intelligent, bright."

Tomkins said that during the three and a half hours of the dinner they drank four or five glasses of red wine each and afterwards he drank a vodka and tonic and she drank a gin and tonic before they went up to her room to work on her presentation.

When asked by his defence counsel, Peter Glenser, if he had been attempting to get her drunk, he replied: "No, I couldn't see the need, we were having a nice evening."

He said that on a drunkenness scale of one to 10, he said she would be a "three or four".

Tomkins, of the Rifles regiment, based at Abbey Wood, near Bristol, admitted that he had been "flirting" with her when he gave her a neck massage in the hotel bar.

He said: "She said she had a sore neck as I gave her neck a massage, she enjoyed it, she leaned back into me as I did it."

Tomkins said that when they began working on her laptop in her hotel room, the alleged victim complained that she was "hot and sweaty".

He said: "As a joke, I said 'We could do it naked of course'. It was smutty, it was possibly more of its moment.

"She looked at me and said 'Well, that's not going to help' and I felt she looked at me with a bit of a tease and a 'Go on then, convince me why I should do it naked'."

Tomkins said they kissed before he undressed her and they had consensual sex on her hotel room bed.

The two-time Afghanistan veteran said: "I asked if she was enjoying it and she said 'Yes'." He added he had "no doubt" that she consented to the sex.

He said that during the sex he made up a limerick and said: "She thought it was funny."

Fighting back tears, Tomkins said that after the sex the complainant, who claims she was too drunk to consent, carried on with their work and looked at Facebook before returning to bed and they fell asleep together.

Tomkins denies one charge of rape at the court martial, which is the first to have heard evidence in both the US and the UK, with prosecution witnesses having given evidence at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor Timothy Bradbury, Tomkins admitted that his behaviour had been "inappropriate" but he said he had not committed rape.

He said: "From a moral point I was wrong, as a married man I should have behaved better."

Mr Bradbury asked him: "You were an ambassador for British forces at that function and you were expected to behave as such, to observe proper professional behaviours, and yet you considered it appropriate to massage her neck in a public bar. Do you think that's appropriate?"

He replied: "No, unquestionably not. I am not proud of what I did. I enjoyed the flirting, it was a high-powered, exotic conference in Kampala, it was a long way from home and she was a very attractive young woman."

He added that alcohol would have "mildly" reduced his inhibitions.

Mr Tomkins added: "This wasn't a long-term romance, this was two people who met one night, had an enjoyable night and ended up having sex."

When asked by Mr Bradbury if the complainant might have felt intimidated by his senior rank, he replied: "By the rapport we had built at the dinner table, I did not feel she had an issue with my rank."

Tomkins told the court that after studying economics at London University he attended Sandhurst and joined the 1st Battalion Light Infantry before later joining the Rifles battalion.

He has served in Brunei, Belize, Germany, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands and was based at Mogadishu, Somalia, at the time of the alleged offence.

The trial continues.