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Brittany Higgins Bruce Lehrmann rape trial texts to ‘Papa Bear’ after alleged attack in Canberra

Brittany Higgins texted her dad saying a co-worker had been ‘inappropriate’ after she was allegedly raped in a parliamentary office by one-time colleague Bruce Lehrmann, a court has heard.

Ms Higgins messaged her father – who she calls Papa Bear – four days after the alleged attack in March 2019, telling him that there had been ‘an incident with a person at work’, the ACT Supreme Court heard. 

In a series of texts, she hinted at the allegations but told the court she ‘wanted to tell my dad but I didn’t want to put it in writing or in text because I was concerned about … implications’.

In a separate text shown to the jury on Thursday, Ms Higgins told former lover Ben Dillaway: ‘The only thing I really want is for this to not get out and become public knowledge.’

Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

Pictured: Brittany Higgins arriving at court in Canberra for Bruce Lehrmann’s rape trial

And in another text to former lover Ben Dillaway in the immediate aftermath of the alleged rape, she admitted: 'The only thing I really want is for this to not get out and become public knowledge (pictured)

And in another text to former lover Ben Dillaway in the immediate aftermath of the alleged rape, she admitted: ‘The only thing I really want is for this to not get out and become public knowledge (pictured)

On March 25 – three days after the alleged assault – Ms Higgins received a message from her father: ‘I had a nice weekend Friday night.’

The following day, Ms Higgins replied: ‘That sounds really nice and I’m very jealous. Quiet time would be beyond idea. Heads up, Canberra is getting chilly so bring a jacket.’

Later that day, she added: ‘I’m fine but just wanted to give you a heads up there was an incident with a person at work being inappropriate. Can’t give you details now.’

Her dad replied: ‘I’m always here, I’m a good listener.’

Ms Higgins told the court she wanted to tell her father ‘but I didn’t want to put it in writing or in text because I was concerned about … implications’.

Instead, the court heard she told her father about the alleged assault on the phone prior to her message about the weather in Canberra.

It was also revealed in court that Mr Lehrmann sent Ms Higgins a series of administration emails in the days after the alleged assault.

Lehrmann (pictured outside court on Thursday) has pleaded not guilty in the ACT supreme court

Lehrmann (pictured outside court on Thursday) has pleaded not guilty in the ACT supreme court

On March 23, the day after their drunken night out, Ms Higgins received an email from Mr Lehrmann which was forwarded automatically from his account.

She explained to the court that Mr Lehrmann would receive a range of clips – all titled ‘Da Clips’ – which were sent to a list of people in the office, but Ms Higgins didn’t get them because she was relatively new to the office.

While her email was being added to the list, the accused forwarded them to her – ‘even on a weekend,’ she told the court.

On Monday, March 25 – three days after the alleged assault, the court heard he emailed her again with a personal message relating to the fact that she was not yet on the proper email list.

‘Not letting me send to private email. Will email David and get your gmail on the private list,’ he wrote. 

Ms Higgins responded: ‘So weird [that it won’t let you send to me private email]. ‘Honestly that would be the best if you could [add me to the list].

Ms Higgins explained in court that she wanted to behave as though everything was normal, and responded as she usually would.

On April 1, she had a panic attack at work following a meeting with Ms Reynolds and former chief-of-staff, Fiona Brown, in the office where the alleged attack took place.

‘That was a distracting element so I was quite panicked because I was in the room with the couch so the words were a little lost,’ she told the court on Thursday.

She said Ms Reynolds appeared empathetic, ‘adding something along the lines of “I didn’t think he was capable of something like that”,’ Ms Higgins added.

‘At that point, the conversation became about the election, what I was going to do, and if I did something that I would need to let the office know.

‘They were trying to feel out whether I was going to the police. It was made clear to me that they stated they were concerned about me going to the police.

‘Just by having the meeting in the room, it all seemed really off. My interpretation was that it was a bit of a scare or intimidation tactic.’

Ms Higgins conceded that may not have been the case, but that was her interpretation.

‘For someone to go into that space after having such a traumatic event in there – that was quite an adversarial space,’ she said.

She told the court that later that day, she couldn’t breath and locked herself in a bathroom for ‘three or four hours’.

Brittany Higgins arrives in ACT Supreme Court in Canberra before taking to the witness stand in the trial of her alleged rapist on Thursday

Brittany Higgins arrives in ACT Supreme Court in Canberra before taking to the witness stand in the trial of her alleged rapist on Thursday

A week after her meeting with Ms Reynolds’, she was taken to the police sexual assault unit.

Three days after that, on April 13, she decided to withdraw her complaint.

She told the court: ‘I felt pressured from my workplace not to pursue it any further at that time. 

‘I tried to make other arrangements to see if they’d e accommodating and they weren’t it became really apparently that there were job implications if I did.’

‘I really wanted to see if I could work from home and go to the gold coast or from a home base where I had a support system.’

Ms Higgins didn’t want to stay in Canberra throughout the election because she was told that everyone who did didn’t get rehired for the following term. 

Former chief-of-staff, Fiona Brown, told her that she wouldn’t have a job if she stayed in Canberra, so she decided to go with Ms Reynolds to Western Australia for the campaign. 

‘I’d gone my entire life working for this moment,’ she told the court. ‘Why was I going to let this person take it away from me?

She told the court on Wednesday that she decided to buy a pregnancy test while in Perth. 

Earlier on Thursday, Ms Higgins wept in court as the trial of her accused rapist Bruce Lehrmann was shown the moment the pair arrived at Parliament House on the night of the alleged assault.

Video shown featured Ms Higgins, now 27, and Mr Lehrmann walking through metal detectors twice and taking off her black stilettos that March 2019 evening.

Ms Higgins broke down as the footage was shown to the jury. Sitting in the witness box, Ms Higgins said she didn’t remember ‘any of it’. 

Footage showed that Ms Higgins – who the court earlier heard was ‘Schoolies drunk’ that night – struggled to buckle her shoes up after walking through security again.

She then walked barefoot in a white cocktail dress through the corridors, carrying her shoes in her hand, according to the clip.

Ms Higgins told the court she kept the white cocktail dress in a plastic bag under her bed for about six months. 

She told the court that, once it was clear she couldn’t report the alleged assault without losing her job, she ‘very symbolically washed the dress’.

‘I wore it once more but I never wore it again after that.’

Ms Higgins was also shown photographs of the office where she allegedly raped, including the grey leather couch. 

The couch faced Ms Reynolds’ old desk, next to an Australian flag. She held it together as the pictures were shown.

However, her voice trembled as she described the way she was positioned on the couch during the alleged rape.

Ms Higgins told the court her head was on a while decorative cushion, facing the window.

‘I was jammed up into the corner [of the couch]. My head was right in the corner, between the head rest and the arm rest,’ she said.

When prosecutor Prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC asked where her legs were, Ms Higgins replied: ‘Spread open.’

‘My left leg was pinned down between his knee and the couch … and my other one was bent and open so I was completely exposed.

‘I was like a prop pinned into that corner.

Ms Higgins arrived at court on Thursday dressed in black. She is expected to be cross-examined by Lehrmann’s lawyer, possibly as early as today. 

The trial continues.

Pictured: Bruce Lehrmann heading to ACT Supreme Court on Thursday morning for day three of the trial

Pictured: Bruce Lehrmann heading to ACT Supreme Court on Thursday morning for day three of the trial

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann leaves the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday after his former colleague and alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins gave evidence

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann leaves the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday after his former colleague and alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins gave evidence

Brittany Higgins sent her ex a series of texts in 2019 to say her Friday night had not gone as expected after she was allegedly raped in a Parliament House office. CoS stands for chief of staff, a key position in a parliamentary office

Brittany Higgins sent her ex a series of texts in 2019 to say her Friday night had not gone as expected after she was allegedly raped in a Parliament House office. CoS stands for chief of staff, a key position in a parliamentary office

Earlier in the day, Brittany Higgins was flanked by her legal team and supporters as she arrived at court for the first day in the trial of her accused rapist

Earlier in the day, Brittany Higgins was flanked by her legal team and supporters as she arrived at court for the first day in the trial of her accused rapist

The trial continues. 

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