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Ex-political adviser tells court he checked welfare of woman alone with Salmond

Alexander Bell gave evidence on the ninth day of the trial in Edinburgh.

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Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond arrives at the High Court in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond arrives at the High Court in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond arrives at the High Court in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

Alex Salmond’s former adviser has told a jury he checked on the “welfare” of a woman who was left alone with the former first minister of Scotland.

Salmond, 65, faces allegations of 13 sexual offences against nine women, all of which he denies.

He has previously said a civil servant in the Scottish Government, known as Woman B, had “misremembered” an incident in which he is accused of grabbing her and trying to kiss her following a meeting at the first minister’s official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, in 2010.

Alex Salmond court case
Alex Prentice QC asked Salmond’s former special adviser why he returned to a room the former first minister and Woman B had been left alone in (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She earlier told the jury trying to shake him off was like “wrestling with an octopus” after he allegedly tried to recreate the pose on a Christmas card, featuring an image of a man and woman about to kiss.

Salmond’s former special adviser, Alexander Bell, 54, gave evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh on the ninth day of the trial on Thursday.

It was heard he had cleared his throat or “made a noise” before entering the  room but had seen “nothing unusual”.

“There may have been some joking related to the card but I don’t recall being told something she was unhappy about,” he said.

Alex Prentice QC, for the Crown, said: “The first minister and (the complainer) were alone in the drawing room, you having left and gone downstairs.

“Did you consider it necessary to return to the room? What was your intention in returning to the room?”

Journalist Mr Bell said: “To ensure that the welfare of my colleague was OK.”

Edinburgh Waverley
Salmond is alleged to have put his hand on the leg of an SNP politician for a prolonged period of time during a car journey to Edinburgh Waverley (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Another witness, Roger Cherry, 53, told the court he remembers the evening when Woman C alleges Salmond sexually assaulted her in his ministerial car.

The former Metropolitan Police officer became the accused’s permanent driver between 2007 and 2013.

Jurors have previously been told Salmond put his hand on the SNP politician’s leg for a prolonged period of time in a journey to Waverley Station in February 2011.

It was heard Mr Cherry did not recall the position everyone was in sitting in the vehicle but he did not see anything inappropriate.

He described the atmosphere as “jovial and very happy”.

Gordon Jackson, representing Salmond, questioned defence witness Malcolm Balfour about working with the former first minister around the time he is alleged to have sexually assaulted Woman A.

Jurors have been told Salmond kissed Woman A on the mouth and touched her buttocks and breasts with his hands over her clothing.

Mr Balfour, an SNP councillor, was asked whether he saw anything “inappropriate” during that period.

He told the court he remembered seeing Woman A but “never witnessed anything” in that respect.

I certainly didn’t think it was appropriate and I didn’t think it was professionalAileen Easton

Aileen Easton, the Scottish Government’s head of news, was former head of news in the accused’s office during his time as first minister.

She told the court she had “no concerns” about her staff working with Salmond during that period.

Ms Easton also told the court she was aware of Woman D showing the accused a photograph of herself in a bikini and it had “raised eyebrows”.

The complainer was working as a civil servant in the Scottish Government and alleges he sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions between May 2011 and June 2013.

He is alleged to have “grabbed” her behind as well as having touched and stroked her hair.

Ms Easton said: “What I remember is being aware of a photo of (Woman D) in a bikini and that having been shown to the first minister proactively. She chose to show the picture.

“I certainly didn’t think it was appropriate and I didn’t think it was professional.”

She added: “It’s not something I would expect my staff to have done, it’s certainly not something I would have done.”

After an intervention from Judge Lady Dorrian, seeking clarity, the witness added: “I would say I was not in the room when it was shown to the first minister.”

She also recalled seeing the complainer, a civil servant in the Scottish Government, walking with Salmond “much more closely than in a professional situation”.

Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, who headed the investigation into allegations against Salmond, told the court there had been 386 statements taken during the probe.

Salmond is on trial over accusations of sexual assault, including an attempted rape, spanning a period between June 2008 and November 2014.

His lawyers previously lodged special defences of consent and alibi.

Consent was given as a defence for three alleged sexual assaults and an alleged indecent assault against three women.

Judge Lady Dorrian told the jury they have now heard all of the evidence in the case with speeches to follow.

The trial continues.

PA