15 Oct 2013

Navy officer 'in constant contact' with woman

7:07 pm on 15 October 2013

Defence Force employees have told a court martial that a top navy officer was still in constant contact with a subordinate after he claimed the relationship had ended.

Military prosecutors say Commodore Kevin Keat was having a relationship with a Defence Force employee that he did not disclose during security vetting and also told her to lie about.

Commodore Keat has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of breaching the Armed Forces Discipline Act. The woman has name suppression.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the court martial panel began watching a taped interview between investigators and Commodore Keat. In the video, the commodore says the sexual relationship was brief and ended in late 2010, just before he became the woman's superior. He says it was he who ended the relationship.

However his former assistant, Melinda Bulman, said she put calls from the woman through to Commodore Keat several times a day and the woman would also visit his office most days without making an appointment until late last year.

At the court-martial at Trentham Military Camp in Upper Hutt on Tuesday, Ms Bulman said if she did not know where Commodore Keat was, she would call the woman in order to get hold of him.

The woman's former manager told the hearing she and other employees often saw Commodore Keat dropping the woman off and picking her up from work between 2010 and 2012, and saw them having coffee and lunch together regularly.

She said there were rumours about the pair dating back to 2009, but Commodore Keat denied the relationship when she asked him about it.

The commodore's lawyers say there is no evidence that any of the contact was of a personal nature.

Rear Admiral Jack Steer, who is now the Chief of the Navy, said he heard in late 2010 that Commodore Keat might be having an affair.

Rear Admiral Steer said he asked the commodore, who was a friend, whether it was true but Commodore Keat denied it. The woman claims Rear Admiral Steer also asked her and she lied to him, but he told the hearing he does not recall that.

Prosecutors said on Monday that Commodore Keat forced the woman to lie to senior officers, and threatened to end her daughter's military career if she told anyone about the affair. They say the woman raised her concerns with the Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, but he took no action.