Philip, Prince

Prince Philip's former aide 'took lonely 11-year-old girl for rides around Buckingham Palace grounds and sexually assaulted her in his marital bed'


PUBLISHED: 17:20, 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 18:25, 18 May 2015 

A royal aide took advantage of his position to abuse a young girl, taking her around the grounds of Buckingham Palace before he assaulted her in his marital bed, a court heard today.

Benjamin Herman is accused of sex offences against the 11-year-old child while he was serving as an equerry to Prince Philip in the 1970s.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard that he repeatedly assaulted the girl, but she did not go to the police until the Jimmy Savile scandal which lifted the lid on historic child sex abuse.

Claim: Former royal aide Benjamin Herman is accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl

Herman, 80, was a major in the Royal Marines who was seconded to look after the Duke of Edinburgh's personal affairs for three years between 1971 and 1974.

He had an office in Buckingham Palace, and lived in a house in south-west London provided for him by the military.

The court heard that during this period he abused the young girl, who lived near him, kissing and touching her under her clothing while encouraging her to touch him sexually.

He allegedly gained her trust by befriending her and letting her into the Palace grounds, as well as boasting about playing football with Princes Andrew and Edward.

Edmund Gritt, prosecuting, said: 'He paid her attention, he would follow her and compliment her on her appearance and on occasions give her sweets and trinkets, including a keyring.

'On one occasion she was thrilled when he drove her and her friend into the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, past security, but that didn't end there, his attention to this girl.

'He took advantage of a girl who was 11 or 12 at the time, who was lonely and needed adult attention but was nevertheless unhappy with the the attention Mr Herman gave her.'

 Herman, from Hook in Hampshire, denies three counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 13, and one count of indecency with a child.

On one occasion, the court heard, he assaulted the girl in the bed he shared with his wife while he was wearing a dressing gown.

Jurors were told that the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had struggled at school and endured upheaval as a result of her father's military career.

Now in her 50s, the victim told friends she had been abused but did not report it to the police until she watched a TV documentary about Savile's crimes in 2012.

'It was the broadcast of the first television documentary exposing crimes of Savile which provoked her to report Mr Herman to the police,' Mr Gritt said.

He added: 'This is not simply a case of someone latching on to Savile to tell a story they haven't told before.'

Herman 'emphatically' denied the allegations when he was first interviewed by police in February 2013, the court was told.

He said that his work as a royal equerry meant he was 'never home during the day' and that he 'couldn't ever have driven anyone through the security gates' at the Palace.

He denied ever knowing the girl, but jurors heard that she could recall details about his family home.

Giving evidence, the woman told the court that Herman 'impressed' her by talking about his personal connections with the royal family.

'He told me that he often had charge of Prince Edward and Prince Andrew and played football with them,' she said. 'It gave me a view of the royal family that was a bit casual and having fun.'

She also described going in his family's Volkswagen camper van for a drive around the forecourt at Buckingham Palace, making her feel 'privileged'.

The woman said: '[We drove] to the gates where there was security person who he spoke to. [They] allowed us in, we circled around the forecourt and went out again [from] the forecourt.'

On another occasion, she said, Herman took her for a drive to Richmond and bought her a present.

She said: '[I went] on my own with him to Richmond to buy something for one of his vehicles.

'He bought me something, I can't remember what. An object, a mirror or something like a ring, I can't remember what it was but I felt great.

'[It was] for being a good girl, it was like a reward because he liked me. An appreciation.'

She said that he helped her feel better about herself after she was bullied at school, adding: 'I felt there was someone there to take notice of me, to appreciate me, possibly be a guardian, make an effort with me, make conversation with me.'

Describing how the alleged abuse began, she said: 'He kissed me on my lips, I felt slightly uncomfortable really, it was a long, lingering kind of kiss you would reserve for your lover.

'A sexual kiss that I didn't know about at that point, but it made me feel uncomfortable.'

She told the court she went swimming with Herman at the Hurlingham Club, a members-only club in Fulham, where he brushed up against her in a sexual manner.

She said that after the Savile revelations came to light, she decided she had to talk to the authorities about being abused.

'I was very upset, I felt that I couldn't suppress it any longer,' she told the court.

'I had made up my mind that I would never speak about it, that's what you do. I felt ashamed, I felt guilty. I felt dirty and I just thought I would take this dirty little secret to my grave.'

Nerida Harford-Bell, defending, suggested that the woman's claims were 'a fantasy' which she invented because she was 'jealous' of Herman's family.

But the alleged victim insisted that she had not made up the abuse allegations.

The trial continues.

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