The captain, his wife and his three lovers

Captain Stefan Michael King. Picture: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Captain Stefan Michael King. Picture: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

A ranking naval officer was having several love affairs while fraudulently claiming tens of thousands of dollars in entitlements for being stationed away from his wife, a military court was told on Wednesday.

Captain Stefan Michael King, a former commanding officer of HMAS Albatross at Nowra and a key witness in the Children Overboard affair of 2001, faces court-martial over accusations he received about $38,000 in living-away-from-home allowances to which he was not entitled because he was no longer in a proper relationship with his wife, a fellow navy captain.

The prosecution says that emails submitted as evidence show that Captain King was having three affairs while claiming the allowances and that one of the affairs, with married Sydney woman Robina Frew, was blossoming into a fully fledged relationship.

The emails, read out to the court by prosecutor Lyn McDade, quoted Captain King repeatedly making disparaging remarks about his wife's physique and declaring that Mrs Frew was the only woman he loved.

They reveal the officer, who served in Iraq in 2007, wrote the woman poetry and sent her links to songs, saying: ''With this song, I pledge my life to you.''

The emails read out on the first day of the trial, covering June 2008 to October 2009, chart the ups and downs of the alleged affair as Captain King and Mrs Frew wrestle the financial and emotional implications of breaking up with their spouses.

At one point he wrote: ''I love you Robina: friend, lover, bride-to-be.''

Over the course of the correspondence, Captain King increasingly says he is ready to leave his wife, while Mrs Frew baulks, fearing her husband ''will die an old man alone''.

The prosecution alleges that emails show Captain King also had an affair with a woman he met while stationed in Britain.

Captain King faces up to 19 charges, including one charge of dishonestly causing a risk of loss to the Commonwealth, six counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, and 12 counts of obtaining financial advantage. He is accused of obtaining about $38,000 by deception.

Captain is a high rank in the navy - just three ranks below the current Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs.

Captain King was also a key witness in the Children Overboard affair, in which the Howard government falsely claimed - shortly before a federal election - that photos showed asylum-seekers had thrown their own children in the sea in 2001.

Captain King, then defence liaison to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, was the officer who relayed to the department that photographs used to back the government's claims were actually of a rescue from a sinking boat the day before.

He revealed during the 2002 Senate inquiry into the affair that he had felt ''uncomfortable'' on receiving a ''pretty heavy'' letter from his supervisor at PM&C, Brendon Hammer, the day before he gave evidence to the committee.

The trial continues.