I'm a womaniser not a sexual predator, major tells tribunal

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The Independent Online

An army major accused of pressuring a female subordinate into a love affair denied yesterday that he was a "sexual predator", insisting he was merely a serial womaniser.

The 38-year-old officer told an employment tribunal that he had been devastated when his relationship with Angela McConnell, a warrant officer in his regiment, was exposed and he was relieved of his command.

Mrs McConnell, 41, is claiming sexual harassment against the cavalry major, a member of the King's Royal Hussars, after saying she had only entered into their affair because she believed a refusal would jeopardise her career.

But her former lover, who she claims has confessed to affairs with 10 women during his Army career, told the hearing in Southampton that their relationship had been consensual and that he was guilty only of being flirtatious.

The major, who has obtained a legal order preventing his name being made public, said: "I am certainly not a sexual predator. I think 'womaniser' is the expression. I thoroughly enjoy the company of women. I am a flirt, I enjoy the company of the opposite sex, but I am certainly not predatory."

When the affair was discovered early in 2002, the couple were charged with disciplinary offences under Army rules which ban sexual relationships between serving colleagues.

Mrs McConnell, who has admitted three other affairs with fellow soldiers, including a gay liaison with a physical education instructor, is claiming that the Ministry of Defence discriminated against her by demoting her to the rank of corporal, while her lover will be allowed to retire with his rank intact and a substantial pension including a £35,000 lump sum.

But the major, who claims that, despite the order banning publication of his name, his identity has become obvious to anyone who knew him, said he was not escaping lightly from his infidelity. Asked how he had felt when he was removed from his post in the regiment he had been tipped to command, he said: "I was devastated. I really felt that everything I had in my life had come to an end. I was removed from my command, which is the ultimate humiliation for an officer.

"I had to face my wife with the adultery I'd committed. I had to face my family and parents. I felt enormous sympathy for Angela."

The officer said he felt the punishment suffered by himself and Mrs McConnell, a mother-of-two whose fling was discovered when her fireman husband found an explicit text message from the major, had been "grossly unfair".

The case has exposed a seamy side to life in a military barracks, with both soldiers admitting to a string of liaisons. The major claimed that Mrs McConnell, who has suffered from depression, met one of her lovers, a lieutenant colonel from the Royal Tank Regiment, once a week in a Wiltshire motel.

The major has confirmed that he also had an affair with Mrs McConnell's female commanding officer.

But he denied that he had ever coerced Mrs McConnell into sex, including an incident when they canoodled in the regimental medal room during a Christmas mess dinner in December 2001.

He said: "We were in the room for a short time and we kissed and we both touched each other. I didn't force Angela to do these things and she did not say or do anything to suggest that she was not an entirely willing participant."

The officer confirmed that he had also sent text messages to a clerk at his barracks, but denied she had been another sexual target. When asked whether he accepted such behaviour was extraordinary, he said he accepted he might not be the sort of person to fit well in the Army structure.

In a statement, he added: "All this has been utterly humiliating ... The truth is that Angela McConnell and I had an affair, which was entirely consensual, and that I certainly did not sexually harass her."

The case continues.