Top NZ naval officer on trial over secret camera


Alfred Keating is accused of placing a hidden camera (not the model pictured) in a heating duct in Washington building to film anyone using a unisex toilet. Illustrative image from Shutterstock 

One of New Zealand’s former top-ranked military officials is on trial in Auckland charged with planting a secret camera in a unisex bathroom at the country’s embassy in Washington.

Alfred Keating, 59, was a commodore in the New Zealand navy and was one of the country’s most senior naval officers before he resigned in 2018 following the allegations. He denies all charges.

Keating was serving as a defence attache at New Zealand’s embassy in Washington when a small, covert camera was discovered in a unisex bathroom after it fell out of a hiding spot in a heating duct on 27 July, 2017.

The crown alleges the motion-activated camera was positioned to capture intimate video recordings of anyone using the toilet, and the case was not one of espionage or spy activity.

Crown prosecutor Henry Steele told the court that investigators began to suspect Keating after examining the buildings swipe card records, the New Zealand Herald reported.

CCTV footage also showed a man wearing dark trousers, a white shirt and a black Fitbit watch entering the toilets at around the same time the hidden camera was activated by a hand wearing a blue latex glove.

In November 2017 police searched Keating’s home in New Zealand and found searches on his laptop for the security company BrickHouse Security, whose logo was found on the hidden camera, and also searches for how to “set up” a secret camera, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Keating’s Fitbit watch was also seized, Steele said, and “extremely strong scientific support” suggested male DNA found on the memory card inside the camera matched Keating’s.

The police investigation found the device had been in place for some months, because the homemade platform it was mounted on in the bathroom was covered in a thick layer of dust.

Ron Mansfield, Keating’s lawyer, said despite the salacious nature of the case the allegations were weak and would disappoint jurors, who had been warned to keep some matters of “national security” secret during the trial, such as the detailed lay-out of the embassy in Washington.

“They [prosecutors] brag to you about the strength of the case,” said Mansfield, reported the New Zealand Herald. “This is a circumstantial case and we say a weak one.”

“The evidence doesn’t tell you who did it and it certainly doesn’t tell you it was Mr Keating.”

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Keating joined the navy in 1976 and has studied engineering in the UK; worked as a team leader on the Australian and New Zealand Anzac frigate project; served as New Zealand’s assistant naval attache and senior technical officer in the US; and worked as the assistant chief of navy in Wellington.

Eleanor Ainge Roy