Queen's man in Australia is accused of rape and cover-up, sparking constitutional crisis

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The Independent Online

Peter Hollingworth, the Australian Governor General, is expected to resign within days over a claim that he raped a young woman at a church holiday camp in the 1960s.

Peter Hollingworth, the Australian Governor General, is expected to resign within days over a claim that he raped a young woman at a church holiday camp in the 1960s.

He went on national television yesterday to deny the accusation. The extraordinary development came after Rosemarie Anne Jarmyn lodged a compensation claim against Dr Hollingworth in a court in Victoria earlier this year. The case came to light only because an Opposition politician discovered that his lawyers had obtained an order allowing it to be conducted in secret.

Ms Jarmyn, who died aged 57 after starting the action, alleged that the nation's most senior statesman raped her in late 1965 or early 1966, when she was 20, at a youth camp that Dr Hollingworth organised and attended in the city of Bendigo. In a video statement played on all national television stations last night, he denied ever knowing her and said he believed it was a case of mistaken identity.

"I did not know this woman. I did not rape her," he said, poker-faced, gazing straight ahead at the camera. "I did not sexually assault her. I deny absolutely that I have ever raped or in any way sexually assaulted any person."

Dr Hollingworth, the Queen's representative and Australia's proxy head of state, was already under pressure over a sex abuse scandal when he was Archbishop of Brisbane. The report of an inquiry, tabled in the Queensland parliament last week, was scathing about his decision to allow a priest who had molested a schoolboy to remain in the ministry.

Since the report was made public, support for the 68-year-old Governor General has crumbled. Senior government ministers and church leaders have publicly urged him to consider his future. Opinion polls found that 75 per cent of Australians believed he should relinquish his post.

Dr Hollingworth has steadfastly ignored calls to resign, and friends say he is now seeking spiritual guidance on his position.

Dr Hollingworth, appointed two years ago, has plunged the vice-regal office into its gravest controversy since 1975, when Gough Whitlam was dismissed as Prime Minister by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, after the Upper House refused to give him the funds to govern. Sir John was forced to retire two years later.

Only two people have the capacity to end the present impasse. One is Dr Hollingworth, who will admit nothing more serious than an error of judgement and has privately compared himself to Jesus facing calls for his crucifixion from the baying crowd – a description unlikely to endear him to down-to-earth Australians.

The other is the Prime Minister, John Howard, who has the power to hire and fire the Governor General, although in theory he merely advises the Queen. Mr Howard has so far refused to intervene, no doubt hoping that Dr Hollingworth will take the hint.

Ms Jarmyn's three children pledged to continue with the civil action yesterday. She was found dead last month at her home in Melbourne. Police say that there are no suspicious circumstances.

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