Soldiers deny gang-raping woman

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The trial began yesterday of six soldiers accused of gang-raping a young woman at a military college. Clare Garner reports

A 23-year-old student and part-time bartender told a court how she was gang-raped by six soldiers.

The woman alleged that on Monday 27 May last year she was raped by two army captains, two lieutenants and two cadets, aged between 19 and 28, at the end of a night out at a fete near the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, Wiltshire.

She told a jury at Oxford Crown Court how, at the end of a drunken evening, she and a female friend had agreed to go back with three of the officers for a sauna in their college living quarters at Kitchener Hall, on condition they were given towels.

Richard Latham, QC, for the prosecution, said one of the officers had urinated on the woman, and after she had gone to get dressed in one of the officer's bedrooms, she had ended up by being raped by each of them in turn.

Nicholas Oettinger, 20, of Preston, Lancashire, Andy Stout, 20, of Whickham, Tyne and Wear, Matthew Tupling, 23, of Bordon, Hampshire, Darren Bartlett, 23, of Aborfield, Berkshire, Philip Bates, 25, of Bordon, and Ian Barlow, 28, of Wattisham Army Base, Suffolk, deny raping the woman. They each face a single charge of rape. All the men except Mr Bates were students at Shrivenham College at the time of the alleged incident.

The woman told her friend and boyfriend about the alleged rape almost immediately but did not report it to police for a further six months.

Mr Latham said that 10 days before the alleged rape, the woman had consensual sexual intercourse with Mr Oettinger, and earlier on the night of 27 May she would have had sexual intercourse with Stout had they not been interrupted by a security officer.

Mr Latham stressed to the jury that, while they might disapprove of the sexual morality of the woman, consider some of her actions "foolhardy in the extreme," and conclude that the consumption of "far too much alcohol" had much to do with what happened, they must concentrate on the issue of consent. "Members of the jury, this is not a court of morals. You must be objective. You must be dispassionate," he said.

The woman told the court how she had left the sauna in tears after Mr Tupling had urinated on her and Mr Bartlett had tried to touch her between her legs. Mr Oettinger allegedly ran after her and took her to Mr Bates' room so she could get dressed, but the other five defendants had followed them and entered the room naked. She told the court that Mr Bates put on a pornographic film and Mr Bartlett said: "Something to the effect of `Are you into group sex?'"

Mr Latham continued: "Then he [Mr Bartlett] pushed her back on the bed and straddled her. When she protested, he told her to enjoy it." They each penetrated her against her will, except Mr Bates who was laughed at because he could not get an erection.

The hearing continues today.