Junior RAF officer claims she was told to get an abortion

Junior RAF officer who ‘became pregnant by her Red Arrows commander’ claims he tried to pressure her into an abortion – telling her ‘It’s a bunch of cells, not a baby’

  • The mistress of David ‘Monty’ Montenegro became pregnant during their affair
  • The woman, now in her 40s, said he pressured her to terminate the pregnancy 
  • She had a miscarriage four weeks later while staying in a hotel with Montenegro 
  • Last week, he was removed from his position during a high-profile Gulf tour  

No matter how daring and giddying the passion, there is a moment in every illicit love affair when those involved are brought back to earth with a bump.

For the secret mistress of Wing Commander David ‘Monty’ Montenegro – better known as ‘Red One’, the most senior pilot of the iconic Red Arrows – it happened in the first weeks of the audacious relationship that started under the noses of their military bosses.

She says she fell pregnant, which had not been part of the plan.

‘I was so frightened,’ remembers the former RAF non-commissioned officer, an attractive woman now in her 40s, who at the time of the affair in 2017 was part of the Red Arrows’ ground crew.

‘I’d never been sure if I wanted children. I’d just got on with my career. But the minute I knew – and I knew I was pregnant before I did the test – I realised I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to keep this baby. It’s astonishing how powerful that feeling was. I told Monty. He was very shocked.’

Red Arrows winger David ‘Monty’ Montenegro was removed from his post during a high profile tour of Gulf states, pending a probe into an affair with a woman who said he told her to terminate a pregnancy with his unwanted child

The dashingly handsome Montenegro was the public face of the Red Arrows, who, the year before, had vacated his pilot’s seat to let Prince George, aged three, sit at the controls.

He was risking his career with a workplace fling, as relationships between military personnel are forbidden if one of the parties is so much more senior.

Now, faced with an unwanted pregnancy, she tells us he was risking his happy family life too – he had a long-term partner and two young children.

The woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, says: ‘He did act quite supportive at first but he was also saying things, trying to convince me to terminate.

‘He said he didn’t want to lose his family, that his partner would leave him. He also said, “You know, it’s a bunch of cells. It’s not a baby.” I thought it was manipulative.’

Devastatingly for her – ‘I was broken’, she says – she miscarried four weeks later.

Devastatingly for her – ‘I was broken’, she says – she miscarried four weeks later. She says she was with Montenegro in a hotel room (always the location of their trysts) when she lost their baby. She cries at the memories. Stock image of woman standing on a beach

She says she was with Montenegro in a hotel room (always the location of their trysts) when she lost their baby. She cries at the memories.

‘I had been bleeding for some time but I finally lost it then. I was in a terrible state. He cried too but I think it was from relief,’ she says.

It is only now – as Montenegro’s career hangs in the balance, along with the future of the Red Arrows – that the details of this distressing chapter are emerging.

Last week, in a move that stunned the squadron, Montenegro was removed from his post during a high profile tour of Gulf states, pending a probe into this affair. His Twitter feed which detailed the Red Arrows’ triumphant display around the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, has not been updated since.

His suspension is the latest in a string of scandals, as a series of sexual misconduct claims have rocked the Red Arrows, plunging the elite unit into the biggest controversy of its 60-year history.

Forty-three personnel, including young female recruits, have turned whistleblower, giving 240 hours of evidence alleging bullying, misogyny and harassment at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, before the Red Arrows moved to nearby RAF Waddington last month.

Two pilots have lost their jobs and – although the MoD has attempted to draw a line under the debacle – there are calls for the team to disband.

The RAF says it is investigating allegations of sexist and unacceptable behaviour. A spokesman said yesterday that pending an investigation into Montenegro, he has been removed from post. ‘We will not be commenting further while the investigation is ongoing,’ he said.

The former lover has left the RAF and works in the private sector but she gave evidence at the MoD investigation, backed calls for an overhaul and said their affair left military bosses with no option but to ask Montenegro to stand down

But there is incredulity from whistleblowers that the Gulf tour is continuing. ‘If the boss has been sent home, that is a huge distraction,’ one said last night. ‘No other squadron would still be flying.’

The former lover has left the RAF and works in the private sector but she gave evidence at the MoD investigation, backed calls for an overhaul and said their affair left military bosses with no option but to ask Montenegro to stand down.

‘I was shocked to see Monty withdrawn from duties,’ she says. ‘I do not want to see him lose his job but I do not think he should lead the squadron because it is a mess. It needs sorting out. The culture was toxic when I was there and my friends still in it say it got worse after I left. The tone is set from the top.’

She joined the elite display team in 2017, having served in the RAF since she was 21. A ‘bit of a geek’ about planes, the military was her life. Being accepted into the Red Arrows was ‘a dream come true’.

She says: ‘It’s what you aim for. If you get in, you’ve made it. I think that’s why so few people feel they can speak out when they see that things are wrong. Since I spoke at the investigation I’ve had former ground crew thank me. Some men want change too but when you have worked your whole career to get there, you don’t want to risk that by standing up saying, this is wrong.’

Her story of what it was like to be a part of the team at times sounds like an account of being a roadie with a rock band.

The Red Arrows pilots are the closest Britain has to Top Guns and Montenegro was their Tom Cruise.

After the woman joined, it was a few weeks before she and Montenegro had any meaningful contact. She says: ‘I didn’t think Monty would notice me so when he did it was a big deal. Silly, I know.

‘I did have to deal with him at the base but it was when we went off on Springhawk, the pre-season training, that things changed. Everyone stays at the same hotel, you work together, socialise together. It’s quite intense.’

There have been reports of a heavy drinking culture in the Red Arrows. ‘Oh yes, there was,’ she says. ‘I was a part of it. Everyone was. There was a rule that you couldn’t be hung over at work – it was as bad as being drunk – but we all were.’

She adds that on a later occasion ‘some colleagues and I had gone on a girls’ night out and the pilots had gone on a pilots’ night out.

‘We happened to bump into each other. We were just chatting, having a laugh. He made it clear he fancied me – hadn’t I noticed? I said no. I couldn’t quite believe it.’

The affair proper started on a tour of the Middle East that year. She says: ‘He messaged me and asked me if I wanted to come over (to his room). I should have said no, but I was just so flattered. I didn’t think anything would develop. Why would it? He had his job. He had his family. We didn’t have sex then. I honestly didn’t think anything more would come of it.’

This was not a coercive or abusive situation, although the investigation will look at whether operational safety was compromised.

‘The question will be whether he was safe to fly because he needed to be 100 per cent focused. I know I wasn’t,’ she says.

‘I was an emotional mess towards the end of it because neither of us could walk away, even though it wasn’t doing either of us any good.’

She adds: ‘We were careful to keep our distance on the base but we would meet up at a hotel. I was just swept away by the attention. I wasn’t thinking. There is a 24-hour rule where if a relationship is discovered, one person is told to leave the base within 24 hours, but I didn’t even think of that. I wasn’t thinking at all. It was intoxicating. I thought I was in love. He said he was falling for me.’

Within a month of this fling, however, she says she had become pregnant and miscarried, which made her ‘a bit of a wreck’.

‘We had this conversation about how if I had the baby he couldn’t be a part of its life for the first two years because of his career plans and family commitments. I said fine, I can do it on my own.

‘I gave him the option of not being involved at all but he didn’t want that either. He said he couldn’t imagine not being in a child’s life. But when I miscarried, he must have been relieved. It wasn’t a problem any more. It was a really lonely time for me. I really didn’t have his support. He was never really there for me. I deluded myself that he was.’

She says she felt ‘massively’ used. But she adds: ‘He never seemed worried about being discovered. There was an arrogance about him. I don’t know if he thought he was untouchable, if he thought he could convince me to have the termination, or he just thought it would all work out. It was such an intense thing, but he wasn’t fazed.’

The MoD did not comment on the pregnancy allegation.

The affair went on for another eight months. She says: ‘I look back and I think, how could I have been so stupid?’

It ended in late summer 2018. ‘It had been petering out,’ she says. I was fed up with it. He probably was too. He had been promoted and said “shall we talk?” Even as he was saying goodbye though, he tried to kiss me. I said, “what are you doing?”.’

She says appearing as if the rules do not apply to him is part of the ‘arrogance of the culture’.

She claims that women were pursued by men and harassed if they did not play ball. ‘I witnessed it with a female colleague. Two of the men – one pilot, one a member of ground crew – were vying for her. Peacocking, we’d call it. It got quite obsessive and nasty.

‘The women on the base, ten per cent of the crew, were still regarded as a novelty. It was a boys’ environment and you know what men are like. They would talk in sexual terms about women. The pilots had code words they would use to each other if they saw a pretty woman visitor. I had my bum slapped. These things were just normal. It’s only when you look back now you think, that was unacceptable.’

The investigation has documented misogyny, harassment, sex harassment, assault, ‘misunderstanding of consent’, sex assault, victimisation, bullying, intimidation, isolation and indecent exposure.

One insider previously claimed female recruits were considered ‘fresh meat’ to be pestered with WhatsApp messages. There have been reports of crew members bursting into female colleagues’ hotel rooms, uninvited. Claims have also been made of pilots rating their flying performances based on women they perceived attractive, on a scale of ‘Susan Boyle’ to ‘Meghan Markle’.

When they flew well, the performance was rated as ‘Meghan Markle’ but if they thought their display went poorly, they labelled it as a ‘Susan Boyle’. A ‘Sienna Miller’ was a mid-range performance.

‘You couldn’t speak out about it because, well, how could you?’ says the woman. ‘This was the elite of the elite. No one would want that reputation tarnished.’

She was asked, at the inquiry, if she would recommend a career with the Red Arrows to a young female recruit. ‘I said I would not. I think you have to be a very strong person to survive in there.’

The only female Red Arrows pilot, Kirsty Murphy, quit in 2011 after two years, citing stress.

Last year, a book charting the glamorous, glorious history of the Red Arrows became a bestseller. It may now need an update – but that is problematic. Its author? Wing Commander David Montenegro…

Source: Read Full Article