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Navy chief raped us: sailors
Navy chief raped us: sailors

Two retired Perth sailors have accused WA's former top navy officer of raping them aboard the ship he commanded in 1973.

Both victims are among almost 900 people who submitted allegations of abuse within the Australian Defence Force to a Federal Government-ordered inquiry.

Williams Hinds, 60, and a 62-year-old sailor he served with who could not be named, both allege that Capt. Robert H. Percy used a cocktail of intimidation and alcohol to force himself on them when he was the commanding officer of their ship, HMAS Perth.

Their confronting accounts come after it was revealed the Government inquiry conducted by law firm DLA Piper found hundreds of plausible allegations of abuse, including many said to have occurred at the HMAS Leeuwin training base in Fremantle.

In May 1973, Mr Hinds was serving as a cook aboard the Perth, which was docked in Sydney at the time.

The then 21-year-old says he was ordered to deliver some pineapple parfaits to Capt. Percy's cabin for a lunch he was hosting for the Sri Lankan ambassador. But when Mr Hinds arrived he was told the meal had been cancelled.

He accepted an invitation to stay for a drink of vodka from Capt. Percy and became drunk, at which point he says Capt. Percy said: "You could go a long way in the navy and I could help you," before he allegedly raped him.

Mr Hinds broke down and cried when he recounted the details of the assault.

"It was non-consensual," he said. "I can still see it right now."

Capt. Percy, now dead, went on to become Australia's naval attache to Washington and the officer in command of Western Australian Forces in 1979. He retired with the rank of commodore.

The sailor who could not be named says Capt. Percy raped him aboard the Perth while it was docked in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in 1973.

"It happened in the shower," the sailor said. "It was terrifying."

Mr Hinds was working in the galley on the Perth when the sailor walked in and told kitchen staff he had been sexually assaulted on a second occasion. "He (the other sailor) was putting his uniform back on. He walked in saying, 'the captain f….. me'."

Mr Hinds backed the sailor's story that he was immediately, and illegally, kicked out of the navy for speaking out about the alleged assault.

Both men, who were reunited at a navy function in January 2009, provided _The Weekend West _with psychologist reports from as far back as 1991 which detail their experiences and the mental trauma that followed.

WA veterans' advocate Trevor Robbins said he was helping another five people in WA who had suffered abuse in the Defence Force in the 1970s.

"Two of those cases were females," he said. "They were both rape cases and in both cases the rapist was never charged."

Mr Robbins and Mr Hinds, who supported calls for ex-gratia payments for victims, were not surprised the Piper report found there was a risk alleged perpetrators now held middle and senior positions in defence. Both agreed a royal commission was needed to deliver justice.

A retired naval officer who served with Capt. Percy, but did not wish to be named, said he had been a devoted family man and respected commanding officer.

The navy was unable to confirm whether any other records of complaint had been made against Capt. Percy but said allegations of sexual assault were taken seriously.