‘Tipsy’ female sailor accused of ‘groping’ 3 colleagues on buttocks and crotch

A "tipsy" female sailor is facing a court martialling after she was accused of "groping" three fellow service members, one of which was a superior judge.

Able Steward Roselia Daniella Epati appeared before Judge Maree MacKenzie during a court session at Devonport Naval Base, where Epati pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecent assault.

Two women and a man are said to have been the targets of the alleged assault aboard the HMNZS Canterbury both on the night of February 18, 2021 and early the next morning.

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Epati, an able steward in the New Zealand navy, is said to have been drinking when she grabbed a female shipmate's buttocks as the defendant left the ship for shore leave.

Two others were allegedly assaulted just hours later after Epati returned from shore leave.

Her first alleged victim claimed Epati had touched her buttocks for "a good couple of seconds", adding that she was clearly under the influence of alcohol.

Giving evidence via audio-feed, the first accuser said: "She was happy. She was obviously under the influence — between tipsy and drunk.

"She was in a good mood. She was being maybe flirty or funny or whatever. I didn't really want to make anything of it. I remember her being embarrassed and she did apologise."

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Two days on from the incident and there was "talk going around the ship" of other people Epati had touched that night, with the sailor apparently "quite drunk" at the time.

Her next accuser claims that Epati had said to her fellow shipmates "I've got balls, like these" and subsequently grabbed the crotch of the man, NZHerald reported.

The victim, who says that it was a "very deliberate" act, informed a higher-ranking officer at the time, while a third victim has alleged Epati "grabbed my vaginal area" to demonstrate what had happened with the male victim.

Defence lawyer Matthew Hague has said Epati is the "only one who can give direct evidence as to what she was thinking".

The trial continues.

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