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Ex-soldiers cleared of raping female colleague

Published 20/04/2016

Anne-Marie Ellement allegedly that she was raped by two colleagues (Liberty)
Anne-Marie Ellement allegedly that she was raped by two colleagues (Liberty)

Two former soldiers have been acquitted of raping Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, who was found hanged in her barracks two years later.

Cpl Ellement died at Bulford Barracks in Wiltshire on October 9 2011, almost exactly two years after alleging that she was raped by two soldiers while stationed in Germany in November 2009.

Thomas Fulton and Jeremy Jones, both 28, insisted Cpl Ellement had engaged in a consensual threesome after drinking with them in the corporals' mess at the camp in Sennelager.

A seven-strong board of civil servants and senior military officers at Bulford Court Martial Centre found both Fulton and Jones not guilty of two charges of raping Cpl Ellement.

Following the verdicts, Judge Jeff Blackett told the defendants: "Thomas Fulton and Jeremy Jones: your conduct on 20 November was disgraceful.

"This is not a moral judgment and I make no comment upon sexual practices involving more than two people.

"But the way you treated Anne-Marie after your encounter was extremely unpleasant.

"After engaging in sex you effectively discarded her while you decided to go off to town without a thought for how she might be feeling or how she might get back to her accommodation safely.

"For Mr Fulton to call her those very unpleasant names including the word 'slag' was truly dishonourable.

"You may have grown up in the seven years since this incident and I hope you will never act in such an appalling way again.

"When you look back on what happened you must feel very ashamed.

"Having said that, you are now free to go and you are to leave the courtroom now before I clear the court."

The verdicts follow a lengthy fight for justice by Cpl Ellement's family, as the case was originally dismissed in 2010.

Judge Blackett said: "This case should have been heard five years ago.

"The extreme delay in bringing this case to court ultimately prejudiced the defendants, Anne-Marie and justice generally."

The judge added that it was "absolutely correct" for the proceedings to be reinstituted, "not withstanding the ultimate outcome".

In March 2014, coroner Nicholas Rhinberg said the "lingering mental effects" of the alleged rape were a factor in Cpl Ellement's suicide.

Mr Rhinberg found Cpl Ellement believed she had been raped and was strongly affected by the "deeply humiliating experience".

His comments came following the second inquest into Cpl Ellement's death, which took place after her family used Article 2 of the Human Rights Act to demand a fresh hearing.

The family, represented by Liberty, also fought for a fresh investigation into the rape allegations against Fulton, from Chester, and Jones, from Carmarthenshire.

The case was later investigated by the RAF Police, who worked with civilian officers from Bedfordshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Fulton and Jones, who left the Army in 2014 and 2013 respectively, were each charged with two counts of rape in October last year and their trial began on April 11.

The eight-day trial heard Cpl Ellement was drinking in the corporals' mess in Sennelager with Fulton, Jones and two other soldiers on the evening of November 19 2009.

Cpl Ellement, dressed in a brown cardigan and jeans, went to the bar at about 10pm after drinking two bottles of beer in her quarters.

Fulton - the boyfriend of Cpl Ellement's friend Cpl Sarah Noteyoung - had just completed his first shift as the orderly sergeant at the Royal Military Police station.

Witnesses described how Fulton, Jones and Cpl Ellement began flirting with each other and were kissing and touching as they drank together.

Fulton and Jones were heard discussing a threesome, which Fulton later suggested to Cpl Ellement, then aged 28.

The three colleagues went upstairs to Jones's room at about 12.30am, where both men had sex with Cpl Ellement.

Judge Blackett said: "I also want to say something about the culture of the Royal Military Police in Sennelager in 2009.

"We have heard much about drinking to excess, sexual relationships between colleagues, intention to go places that were out of bounds in the local town.

"The RMP more than other soldiers are required to uphold the standards and values of the British Army, and to investigate those who fall below those standards.

"It appears to me that 110 Provost Company fell woefully short of those standards themselves.

"We all know of the dangers of excessive drinking.

"The reason that casual sexual relations between colleagues in the same unit are discouraged is because of the potential adverse effect they may have on morale and on operational effectivity.

"This case demonstrates that and I hope that the RMP have learned lessons from the evidence that we have heard in this trial."

Cpl Ellement was found naked apart from her brown cardigan and crying in the corridor of her accommodation block at 1.37am.

She immediately alleged that she had been raped and sexually assaulted.

Fulton and Jones were in a taxi on their way to a nightclub in Sennelager when they received a call instructing them to return to camp as Cpl Ellement was upset.

Both men were then arrested.

In a police interview in 2014, Fulton said: "I am really sorry she killed herself.

"I wish something had been done to help her. I wish she had got the help she needed but it wasn't my responsibility.

"I was trying to get on with my own life. I'm having my life blown to pieces by this. She lied about this incident.

"I wouldn't have cared if she was mistaken or too drunk but she lied about it. She said I held her down but I didn't.

"I haven't done anything wrong."

Ex-corporals Fulton, formerly of 174 Provost Company 3 Royal Military Police, and Jones, 28, formerly of Close Protection Unit Royal Military Police Operations Wing, left court through a military exit.

Emma Norton, lawyer for Liberty which represents Cpl Ellement's family, said: "The verdict of the court is respected and accepted.

"It is now more than six years since Anne-Marie reported being raped and it is more than four years since she died.

"The family would like to take this opportunity to thank the police officers that worked so hard - from the RAF Police and Bedfordshire Police - and all the lawyers from the prosecuting team.

"The commitment and diligence they have shown is something to which all those who report rape ought to be entitled.

"Anne-Marie was entitled to have her allegations investigated while she was still alive. As the judge himself noted in very strong terms, this case should have been heard five years ago.

"The family welcome the judge's comments about the extremely unpleasant and dishonourable conduct of the defendants. They share the judge's concerns about the culture within the Royal Military Police.

"The history of this case, and how it took six long years for it to come to court, reveals grave deficiencies in the policies and practices of those responsible for investigating sexual offences committed against members of the armed forces.

"Had it not been for the tenacity and strength of Anne-Marie's family and their willingness to challenge the extraordinary reluctance of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the military police and the Army prosecuting authority to investigate the allegations, this case would never have come to court.

"After such a long struggle the family now asks for time to reflect upon the verdict. Above all today their thoughts are with Anne-Marie."

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