Witness says rape attempt accuser did not attend Bute House dinner
Alex Salmond pictured at the opening of a ferry terminal at Cairnryan. Picture by Bill Heaney
BBC Scotland is reporting that a woman who Alex Salmond is accused of attempting to rape did not attend a dinner at his official residence on the night the incident is alleged to have happened, a witness has claimed.
The witness, Samantha Barber, said she had attended a meal with Mr Salmond and a celebrity at Bute House in June 2014.
She said she had not seen a government official known as Woman H there.
Woman H has previously told the trial that Mr Salmond “pounced” on her after the dinner and took her clothes off.
The High Court in Edinburgh also heard evidence from the celebrity last week, who told police that he could remember Woman H being at the dinner.
Mr Salmond denies attempting to rape Woman H, and a further charge of sexually assaulting her the previous month.
He also denies a further 11 charges of sexual assault against eight other women, all of which are alleged to have happened while he was Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the SNP.
Giving evidence to his trial on Wednesday, Ms Barber said she knew Woman H and had a “strong recollection” of being invited by her to attend the dinner with the celebrity and Mr Salmond.
However, the businesswoman said her recollection was that Woman H had told her she would not be there.
She went on to say that it had only been her, Mr Salmond and the celebrity who were at the dinner.
Ms Barber said there had been a bottle of wine but she was not drinking because she was driving home afterwards, and that she had left Mr Salmond and the celebrity at about 21:00.
Asked by defence lawyer Shelagh McCall QC whether she had seen Woman H at any point that night, Ms Barber replied: “No, I didn’t.”
When prosecutor Alex Prentice QC later put it to her that Woman H had indeed been there, Ms Barber replied: “No.”
She went on to say: “I absolutely genuinely have no recollection of seeing (Woman H) that night.”
Woman H alleged during the first day of the trial that Mr Salmond “pounced” on her after the dinner.
She claimed that he ignored her pleas to stop and started removing both his clothes and hers, before pushing her onto a bed and getting on top of her while he was naked.
Mr Salmond told the court on Tuesday that he had a previous “consenting sexual encounter” with Woman H which did not result in full sex.
He said Woman H’s allegations against him were “lies”, and that she had been angry when he had not endorsed a personal political project she had been involved in.
Also giving evidence on Wednesday was former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who said Woman H had texted her in 2015 to say that “it would be great to work with Alex again”.
She said Woman H was later “clearly very annoyed” that her project had not been endorsed by Mr Salmond.
Ms Ahmed-Sheikh also said she had been at Stirling Castle in November 2014 and had watched Mr Salmond having his photograph taken with a former civil servant known as Woman K, but had not seen anything untoward.
The former first minister is alleged to have put his hand on the bottom of Woman K while the photograph was being taken.
Among the other defence witnesses on Wednesday were a female civil servant who said she had never felt uncomfortable around Mr Salmond and was not aware of any system to prevent women working alone with him at night.
What has the trial heard so far?
- Woman tells court Alex Salmond ‘pounced’ on her
- Alex Salmond trial witness denies making up allegations
- Woman claims former first minister gave her ‘very sloppy’ kisses
- Woman says former first minister ‘apologised’ for behaviour
- Woman says Salmond kissed her after ‘zombie walk’
- Rotas ‘changed’ after women made complaints
- Salmond says sex assault claims are ‘deliberate fabrications’
Another witness, Alexander Anderson, said he had worked for Mr Salmond for 15 years in various roles.
Mr Anderson said the former first minister had “always been tactile” and would shake hands and hug people in the street.
But he said Mr Salmond’s behaviour was “absolutely not inappropriate”.
Mr Salmond says he is innocent of all the allegations against him.
He has entered not guilty pleas to all 13 of the charges which he still faces, which include one charge of attempted rape, one of sexual assault with intent to rape, nine sexual assaults and two indecent assaults.
He was acquitted of a further charge of sexual assault against a 10th woman when the Crown dropped the allegation.