Alex Salmond ‘acted like a zombie’, sexual assault trial hears | UK news

Alex Salmond pretended to be a zombie before sexually assaulting a woman, and he grabbed another’s bottom while the pair were being photographed, a jury has heard.

Giving evidence on the fifth day of the former Scottish National party leader’s trial for 14 alleged sexual assaults, including an attempted rape, witness J told the court about an “awful nightmare” that she claimed occurred at Salmond’s official residence.

The witness said she had returned to Bute House, the first minister’s residence, late at night in September 2014, to help him deal with a significant breaking news story.

She claimed Salmond asked her to lie on the floor with him while he amended a speech in his private sitting room.

“Out of the blue, he said: ‘Have you seen that zombie movie?’ And he said: ‘Stand up’. As I stood up he stretched his arms out straight towards me and for a second or two he did an impression of a zombie walking towards me.

“He was taking a couple of clumsy steps towards me. He put his hands on my shoulders and then he leaned in to kiss me on the cheek. He then leaned into me to kiss me on the lips.”

When asked by the prosecution lawyer Alex Prentice QC if she was frightened, she replied: “Yes.”

Under cross-examination, the SNP worker said she was surprised when another complainant, witness H, contacted her after the Daily Record revealed the Scottish government was investigating sexual harassment allegations against Salmond, but denied that she was being encouraged by witness H to join her in making a complaint.

“I thought what happened to me was a one-off. I wasn’t aware of rumours or any other complaints. What surprised me was that [H] assumed something had happened to me.”

Witness J agreed, under cross-examination from the defence lawyer Shelagh McCall QC, that Salmond was a “touchy feely, tactile person” who had sometimes kissed members of the public, and that she had thought this was inappropriate.

McCall put it to the witness: “This incident with the zombie film, he says that never happened. You’re going to tell me it did?”

Witness J replied: “Yes.”

She also agreed that she had continued to work with Salmond after the alleged incident.

Earlier, the court had heard from a former civil servant who claimed Salmond grabbed her bottom while the pair were being photographed together, describing her changing expression during the series of images taken as evidence of her “disbelief” at what was happening to her.

Witness K said Salmond had been “very insistent” that she have her photograph taken with him after an event at Stirling Castle in 2014 when he was the first minister.

She alleged that, as she was posing with him, Salmond put his arm around her and then “reached down and grabbed hold of my backside”.

The witness, who was the sixth woman to give evidence against Salmond, claimed he had grabbed her bottom “quite forcefully with his full hand” and that she was certain it was not accidental: “I can see how hands brush past places but this was deliberate.”

Describing her reaction as “mortified”, she explained: “I just wanted to do my job and feel proud of myself doing my job and it felt like I was being demeaned. It was unprofessional but there was nothing I could do about it.”

The court was shown the series of photographs taken of the pair on the evening she described. The woman said she thought she looked “very embarrassed” in some of the images, and that one in particular showed a “look of disbelief” on her face.

The woman agreed with the defence lawyer Gordon Jackson QC when he put it to her that she had thought the alleged incident “wasn’t sexual, it was about power”.

She explained: “That was my interpretation. The first minister felt my backside because he could.”

The witness said she had no choice but to get on with her job, but the next day she told a senior colleague what had happened because she “wanted him to be aware”.

On Friday afternoon, a third witness, another civil servant in the Scottish government, claimed Salmond touched her bottom and stroked her arms, hair and face on a number of occasions between 2011 and 2013.

“It made me feel pretty humiliated, like I wasn’t a valued member of the team,” witness D said. She explained that she didn’t raise her concerns at the time “because in the grand scheme of things that seemed pretty small fry”.

Salmond denies all the allegations.

The trial continues.

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