Admiral warned pair about affair

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The Independent Online
THE MOST senior officer ever to give evidence to a court martial told yesterday how he had spoken to his assistants, an Army colonel and a senior Wren, about their "conduct and relationship".

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jock Slater, Chief of Naval Staff, expressed concern about the behaviour of Lieutenant Colonel Keith Pople and Lieutenant Commander Karen Pearce while they worked for him in his Whitehall department.

However, despite his intervention, the couple had a three year affair which ended acrimoniously in 1996 and resulted in Lt-Col Pople being accused of conduct to the prejudice of good order, and scandalous conduct unbecoming the character of an officer. He faces the charges because he was married at the time of the affair, was Lt- Cdr Pearce's immediate senior and was involved in writing confidential reports on her.

Admiral Slater told the court martial at Aldershot, Hampshire, that he had spoken to both Lt-Col Pople, 42, and Lt-Cdr Pearce, 34, about their relationship. He did not say, however, how explicit his warnings were.

Under cross examination by Lt-Cdr Chris Armstrong for the prosecution he was asked: "Did you speak to Lt-Col Pople or Lt-Cdr Pearce about their conduct or relationship?" The admiral replied: "Yes, both of them."

The hearing has been told that the couple's sexual relationship began in 1993 during a business trip to Naples with Admiral Slater. Their affair continued until 1996 when Lt-Col Pople ended it. Later, however, when he found out Lt-Cdr Pearce was seeing another officer, Lt Nigel McTear, with whom she now lives, he embarked on a campaign of malicious letter writing and behaviour which has resulted in the charges.

The admiral was one of a string of senior officers, including an air chief marshal, a major general and two brigadiers who praised the colonel.

Earlier, Lt-Cdr Pople told the court that he returned to his wife at the end of the affair for the sake of his career.

The suspended commanding officer of the 4th Regiment of the Army Air Corps, said he believed family values should be at the core of army life, in spite of his affair with Lt-Cdr Pearce.

Asked about his wife, Brenda's reaction to his affair, he replied: "My wife was not pleased but was not surprised.

"I did consider it would have an effect on my career. I thought people might believe it was an unfair thing to do to leave my wife to marry another person. My wife is well-known in the Army Air Corp.

"That would have an effect on my career. The officer corps is very small and people's opinions might have gone against me. The officer corps values marriage very highly."

He is accused of writing an anonymous letter to one senior officer and making an anonymous telephone call to another alleging that Lt-Cdr Pearce and Lt McTear had been having sex on board the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in breach of the Navy's strict "no touching" rule. Lt-Cdr Pearce faces no charges.

The hearing continues.