A WORKMAN has denied sexually assaulting a female flatmate – claiming he was sleepwalking at the time of the alleged attack.

Christopher Palmer, 30, is alleged to have pounced on the woman after walking into her bedroom in the middle of the night wearing just a jumper and boxer shorts.

Palmer is then alleged to have grabbed the woman by the wrists before fondling her breast during the incident in a shared flat in Leith in 2022.

But the self-employed painter and decorator told a court this week that he had no recollection of the alleged sex assault because he is prone to bouts of sleepwalking.

He said that he had suffered from the sleep disorder since childhood and, after the alleged attack, he had gone back to bed unaware that anything had happened until the police woke him shortly afterwards.

Palmer, of Gracefield Court, Musselburgh, stood trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last Thursday after pleading not guilty to charges of assault and sexual assault alleged to have occurred on February 12, 2022.

Solicitor Stephanie Clinkscale, defending, said that she was lodging “a self-defence of automatism” on behalf of her client and a specialist report had been prepared into his condition.

'He looked a bit spaced'

The alleged victim told the trial that she shared a flat with Palmer and two others at the time and they had only met a couple of times before she claimed he entered her bedroom and assaulted her.

The woman, an NHS worker, said that she was lying in bed playing a computer game when her bedroom door was unexpectedly opened by Palmer at about 2am.

She claimed that he “lunged” onto her bed, sat on her legs and grabbed hold of her wrists, leading her to start “screaming and shouting” to get off her.

The woman said: “He told me to be quiet and stop screaming. He didn’t look aggressive, he looked a bit spaced.

“I managed to free my right wrist and started digging my nails into his face but there was no reaction.

“With his left hand, he was touching my breast. I was terrified, angry and scared.”

The woman said that the two other flatmates heard her shouts for help and rushed to her aid. She said that one managed to “get him off me” and ushered him from her room.

She told the trial that she had immediately phoned the police following the incident and officers arrived at the property shortly afterwards.

'I don't remember anything happening'

Palmer told the court that he had been alone in his bedroom all evening and had drunk two bottles of wine before falling asleep at about midnight.

He said that he woke up in the hallway beside one of the flatmates and had “assumed” he had been to the toilet before then heading back to his bedroom and going to sleep.

He said: “I believe I was sleepwalking, as I have previously.

“I had no idea anything had happened and was going back to sleep. I was not really aware how I’d got there.

“I went back to bed and the next thing I knew there was a knock on the door and it was the police.”

Palmer added: “I don’t remember anything happening and I must have been sleepwalking and accidentally gone into her room.

“I feel bad there was an altercation but I had no intention of harming her in any way.”

The summary trial in front of Sheriff Francis Gill was part-heard due to the unavailability of the expert defence witness and will continue later this year.

Palmer denies charges of assaulting a woman by seizing her on the body and sexually assaulting her by seizing her by the breast at an address in Leith on February 12, 2022.