Salmond accuser: ‘It felt like I was wrestling an octopus’

Woman tells court the ex-first minister wanted to recreate a 'sexualised' Christmas card with her.

Salmond accuser: ‘It felt like I was wrestling an octopus’ Getty Images

A woman has told a court it was like “wrestling with an octopus” when Alex Salmond grabbed her as he tried to recreate the image on a “sexualised” Christmas card.

The former first minister, 65, faces 13 charges of alleged offences against nine women, all of which he denies.

He was formally acquitted of another charge of sexual assault after the Crown offered no evidence.

A civil servant in the Scottish Government told the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday she was assaulted by Salmond following a meeting in Bute House – the first minister’s official residence – in 2010.

The jury was shown an image of a Christmas card design, featuring a man and a woman about to kiss beneath the mistletoe.

“There (were) two individuals on the Christmas card – the older male, taller with glasses and a younger female, who was quite scantily clad,” she said.

“I didn’t think the image was appropriate. It showed the female leaning up to kiss the gentleman.

“I didn’t think it was an appropriate image for the first minister and his wife to send out.”

The prosecution witness, known as Ms B, said she raised her reservations with Salmond and others at the meeting.

She explained: “My view was that the picture was too sexualised for him to send out.”

The court heard all those at the meeting agreed the image was inappropriate but the civil servant said she was assaulted when she was left alone in the room with Salmond.

“He immediately just said ‘let’s recreate the pose on the Christmas card’,” she said.

“He grabbed my wrists and pulled me towards him and I was just shocked. I used my hands to try to get him off.”

But the woman said she did not succeed, adding: “It felt like every time I managed to get a hand off another hand would appear.

“He was very persistent and it felt like I was wrestling with an octopus. I felt like there was always another hand.”

Ms B said she said or did nothing to give the impression she wanted it to happen and did not consent.

“I felt quite alarmed, I wanted it to stop,” she said.

“I didn’t say anything. I was trying to get his hands off me, but I couldn’t get my voice.”

She told the jury the alleged assault ended when a colleague came to the door.

Ms B said she spoke to her line manager about the incident but added: “I didn’t think there was really an option to take things further at that time within the Scottish Government because of the relationship between the civil service and the first minister.

“I felt that if I had complained formally, then I would be the problem and I would be moved and I had worked really hard.”

Shelagh McCall QC, representing Salmond, suggested her client had been in a “playful mood” on the evening of the incident and asked if Ms B would describe the incident as “hijinks”.

The woman replied: “I would say it was…at night, in an empty room at Bute House. I don’t think that can be described as hijinks. I certainly didn’t take it that way.”

The court also heard from another civil servant who worked with Ms F, who gave evidence last week about being allegedly abused by Salmond.

This civil servant told the court that he met with Ms F at the time of the alleged assault. He said his colleague was “unusually upset” and was very “upset”. 

The court heard how Ms F told him that Salmond urged her to sit on his bed. He says she seemed “traumatised” by the alleged assault. 

He told the court that following the incident with Ms F and another complainer called Ms G, he and colleagues changed rotas to ensure that none of their female colleagues were left alone in Bute House. 

This witness told the court that he didn’t trust civil service procedures at the time to handle the complaints that his female colleagues had raised. 

He said the job was stressful and that some of his colleagues sustained mental health issues – others stopped working with the First Minister. 

Salmond is on trial over accusations of sexual assault, including an attempted rape, spanning a period between June 2008 and November 2014.

His lawyers previously lodged special defences of consent and alibi.

The trial, before judge Lady Dorrian, continues.

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