A young woman described feeling scared and uncomfortable in a room scattered with British navy hockey players in the barracks of a Halifax-area military base, as a naked man lay face down on a bed and other men cheered.
The complainant in the sexual assault trial of U.K. sailor Darren Smalley testified that she got separated from her friend on the evening of April 9, 2015, after they arrived back at the barracks at 12 Wing Shearwater from a beer run.
“I couldn’t understand why she would just disappear for no reason,” she told the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax. “That’s when I panicked.”
The 38-year-old Smalley, who was participating in a naval hockey tournament at the time, is accused of sexual assault causing bodily harm and participating in a sexual assault involving one or more people.
The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said when she couldn’t find her friend, she started knocking on doors and calling out her name. She then realized she was alone in a building full of hockey players.
She said a player asked her if she wanted to go back to his room, but she said no, believing there was more safety in numbers.
Unable to find her friend, she decided to go to a room they were in earlier in the night, but another player she encountered in the hall told her, “You don’t want to go down there.”
But the complainant went anyway, as it was the only familiar room to her in the barracks and she felt that her friend may eventually show up there.
She said the room was full of hockey players and a man was naked face down on a bed. An inappropriate comment – which was not divulged in court – was made to her, and she made an inappropriate comment in response.
“For me, it was extremely threatening to have a group of people I didn’t know, they’re all together in a small room… the naked man is next to me and so the more scared I got, the more aggressive and assertive I became as well,” said the complainant, who appeared composed throughout her testimony.
“Nothing seemed out of place to the hockey team. They seemed like this is how they would normally spend a Thursday. They were comfortable. They were cheering at the player who was face down as if this is common practice.”
She said there was “laughing, cheering, snickering. They seemed generally amused by the comment and response.”
“After that, I wanted no more of that room… and I headed to the female washroom,” she said, adding she was standing in the doorway of the room during the roughly one-minute exchange.
Her testimony will continue Thursday morning.
The case once involved four accused, but charges against two of the sailors were dropped.
The Crown stayed charges against another sailor, Simon Radford, earlier in the trial. Radford was in hospital in the United Kingdom with a serious infection.
The charges against Radford can be reinstituted within one year.
Earlier Wednesday, the complainant told the court she was feeling stressed and was having a hard day on April 9, 2015.
The woman testified she had taken an exam and when she finished, her friend invited her to go out that evening on a double date with a British hockey player that she had met on Tinder.
“I was excited at that prospect,” she said of the plan, adding that she likes hockey and did not want to sit home alone after a rough day.
The pair eventually made their way to a rink at Shearwater, where the Royal Navy hockey team was playing a game, and afterwards they made a plan to return to where the players were staying: the barracks at 12 Wing Shearwater.
Once there, they went to a room with four beds, where she met Smalley and others.
The complainant said she and her friend were offered a beer. She accepted it but only drank about half, because she doesn’t like beer.
“It was a very friendly environment,” said the woman, her voice calm throughout her testimony Wednesday.
Eventually, it was decided they would go to an after-hours beer drive-thru to retrieve more beer, as the liquor store was closed.
Earlier this week, the trial was shown a short video clip of the friend’s interview with a military police officer on April 11, 2015.
In the video, the friend tells Sgt. Tyler Bruce-Hayes that the complainant had told her at least four men were involved in the incident.
“She was just like… ‘When I came to, I literally couldn’t tell you who it was,”‘ the friend told the investigator, describing what the complainant had told her about the incident.
“She said they were going back and forth, taking turns.”