Maintains innocence … Captain King. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
CAPTAIN Stefan Michael King sat stonily on Thursday as two years of his life were laid bare, in sometimes excruciating detail, through deeply personal correspondence with his lovers.
The audience was a panel of five of his peers - all navy captains themselves - and equally dour in their expression as they heard how Captain King turned to other women for emotional and sexual solace as his principal extramarital lover kept him at a distance.
The ranking navy officer, former commanding officer of the navy's air station, HMAS Albatross at Nowra, is pleading not guilty to 19 charges of fraudulently claiming about $38,000 in allowances to which he was not entitled because he was no longer in a proper relationship with his wife.
In a case that goes to the heart of what it means to be married, the prosecution alleges that Captain King had effectively separated from his wife, also a navy captain, before he was posted from Canberra to Nowra in January, 2010. But he continued to claim special allowances for about 18 months afterwards.
''It's not for you to have any moral judgment of the accused,'' Brigadier McDade told the panel at the military court in Canberra. ''It's about his state of mind.''
That state of mind was that Captain King's affair with a married Sydney woman, Robina Frew, was ''much more than an affair or a fling''. The emails, prosecutor Brigadier Lyn McDade told the court, charted an evolution in Captain King's relationship with Mrs Frew and a corresponding deterioration with his wife.
But it gets more complicated. Mrs Frew was known to Captain King's wife, Jacqueline King, a navy engineer, as an ostensibly platonic friend of Captain King's. She visited their home in Canberra socially. That began to weigh on Mrs Frew.
''I feel tired, angry, hurt, confused,'' Mrs Frew writes in late 2009. ''Last night made me realise I don't want to be the cause of sadness for (Jacqueline). She is so sweet. I am down about this.''
Mrs Frew was also concerned about her own husband and the impact on her children. (The Kings have no children.)
The trial heard that as her sense of guilt grew, Mrs Frew at times backed off from the affair with Captain King, saying she needed ''space''. From time to time in 2010, the relationship faltered, and Captain King began corresponding frequently by email with his ''English Rose'' - a married woman unnamed in court with whom he had an affair while he was posted to Britain between 2003 and 2006.
Not only does he pour his heart out to her, but he also reveals he might get back together with her if the relationship with Mrs Frew falls apart - and that Mrs Frew is aware of this.
''I told her I thought you would take me if she did not,'' he wrote in March 2010.
Mrs Frew ''knows about'' his previous affair with the English Rose, he writes.
He talks about his own childhood, how he is the ''product of a broken home'' - and therefore he knows what an irretrievably failed marriage looks like.
Later that year, during a difficult patch with Mrs Frew, he began sexual relationships with two other women, according to the emails before the court.
In a later email to the English Rose, he writes of a weekend away with his wife and her family.
''(It was) interesting when plans about the future were raised,'' he writes. ''Because I don't intend to be part of them.''
Captain King's barrister, Sandy Street, SC, said the naval officer maintained his innocence and was confident he would be acquitted.
The trial continues.