Navy sex pest must go, says his victim

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The Independent Online
A FORMER Wren who claimed she was driven out of the Royal Navy by the sexual behaviour of an officer, nicknamed Commander Underpants, said yesterday that she had nightmares about meeting him in the street and called on him to resign.

Nicola Rushton, 20, was speaking for the first time since winning her sexual harassment claim against Lieutenant Commander David Bellingham at an industrial tribunal in Exeter, Devon.

Miss Rushton, who now valets cars for a living, said either Lt-Cdr Bellingham should resign, or the Royal Navy "should do something to him".

She was subjected to a number of incidents of sexual harassment by the officer aboard the frigate HMS Coventry between 1996-97.

Lt-Cdr Bellingham, who was known as "underpants" because he wore underwear which played "Jingle Bells", asked Miss Rushton about her own undergarments more than 100 times and asked her to masturbate in front of him.

Miss Rushton told the tribunal that the experience had changed her from a 12-and-a-half-stone bubbly teenager to an eight-and-a-half-stone shaking, nervous wreck.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Miss Rushton said she was relieved that she had been believed and added: "It has not sunk in yet."

Women did have a place on board ship in the Navy "if this is sorted out", she said. She believed the service "could have done more than they did", but added that she had no resentment towards the Navy.

But Miss Rushton, who had signed on for 22 years, said it would be "a few years" before she accepted what had happened. "I have had a few nightmares about seeing him since I left the Royal Navy and shall have for a few years to come," she said, and advised anyone else in the Navy who was being sexually assaulted to speak out. "Do not keep it inside you, then it should be resolved before it gets as far as it did with me."

Miss Rushton was transferred to HMS Drake shore base in Plymouth, Devon, when a Navy investigation into Lt-Cdr Bellingham's conduct began in April 1997, after complaints from another Wren. She was then sent to see a psychiatrist and was dismissed as being "temperamentally unsuitable" for a Navy career.

Her claims followed a court-martial last January, where Lt-Cdr Bellingham, who denied all the allegations, was fined pounds 2,000, severely reprimanded and stripped of his seniority.

The amount of damages Miss Rushton will receive has yet to be decided.

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