Police close investigation into cabinet minister accused of rape due to ‘insufficient evidence’

Detectives have closed an investigation into a rape allegation against a cabinet minister due to insufficient evidence.

A woman accused the minister of raping her at an event in Sydney in 1988 but never made a formal statement to police and took her own life last year.

New South Wales Police released a statement on Wednesday saying the man would not be charged.

An anonymous sender said they were inspired to write a letter (pictured) detailing the woman’s allegations after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins went public with an allegation

‘The matter is now closed’: NSW Police statement 

In November 2019, a woman then aged 48, attended an Adelaide (South Australia) police station seeking advice about reporting historical sexual offences, which allegedly occurred in 1988 in Sydney (New South Wales). 

The matter was then referred to the NSW Police Force and an investigation by the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced under Strike Force Wyndarra.

NSW Police Force has been the lead agency in respect to this investigation since February 2020. For various reasons, the woman did not detail her allegations in a formal statement to NSW Police. 

The woman passed away in June 2020. Following the woman’s death, NSW Police came into possession of a personal document purportedly made by the woman previously. 

NSW Police have since sought legal advice in relation to these matters. Based on information provided to NSW Police, there is insufficient admissible evidence to proceed. 

As such, NSW Police Force has determined the matter is now closed. 

‘Based on information provided to NSW Police, there is insufficient admissible evidence to proceed,’ the statement read.  

The allegation against the minister became public last week after Scott Morrison received a letter from a mystery sender which included a statement the alleged victim had prepared for her lawyers in 2019. 

Police were due to travel to her home in Adelaide in March 2020 to take her statement but their trip was postponed due to Covid-19.

In June the woman withdrew her allegation and died by suicide the next day, causing the investigation to be suspended. 

According to Four Corners which first reported the allegation on Friday, the woman had bipolar disorder and had attended a psychiatric hospital in Melbourne in the months before her death aged 49.

Friends say she was ‘beautiful and clever’ but ‘consumed with trauma’. 

Mr Morrison said he did not read the letter but forwarded it to Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw (pictured)

Mr Morrison said he did not read the letter but forwarded it to Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw (pictured)

As well as leaving her prepared statement, the woman made a 45-minute recording in which she talked about her allegations, according to the Herald Sun.

In a letter to a friend she wrote: ‘I guess I just worry that a trial has the ­potential to be an emotional bloodbath, particularly for me and anyone who appears as a witness in the case.’ 

NSW Police said officers have sought legal advice about a ‘personal document’ made by the woman. 

The woman had told several family and friends about her allegation. It was presumably one of them who sent the letter to Mr Morrison, Liberal MP Celia Hammond and two South Australian senators, demanding an investigation.  

The rape allegation: A timeline 

1988: Rape allegedly happens at event in Sydney when woman is 16

Late 2019: Woman engages lawyers and prepares a statement

February 2020: Woman reports allegations to NSW Police

March 2020: Police postpone trip to visit her due to Covid-19 

June 2020: Woman dies by suicide

February 24, 2021: Anonymous letter is sent to PM detailing allegations

March 1, 2021: PM says minister completely rejects the allegations

March 2, 2021: NSW Police close the case

The anonymous sender said they were inspired to write the letter after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins went public with an allegation she was raped by another staffer in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ parliament office in 2019.

Ms Higgins’ allegations dominated the past two sitting weeks of parliament as ministers were repeatedly grilled over who knew about her claims and when. 

The sender demanded an inquiry into the 1988 allegation, writing: ‘There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice… and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.’  

The identity of the cabinet minister is known among the media and politicians but cannot be disclosed for legal reasons.  

The ministerial code of conduct requires a minister to stand aside if charged with a crime – but he won’t face court because under NSW law a rape charge can only be laid if there is a living complainant. 

Mr Morrison said he spoke to the minister on Wednesday evening and he ‘vigorously rejected the allegations.’

He said he did not read the letter but had been briefed on the contents of the allegations.

Asked if he would set up an inquiry, he said: ‘I’m not the police force. I have given it to the police to investigate.’

Mr Morrison said AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw had not advised him to take any action. 

He refused to sack the minister, saying: ‘We can’t have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicised through the media is grounds for, you know, governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that. I mean, we have a rule of law in this country.’ 

Mr Morrison said the first he substantially heard of the allegation was last week. Before that he had only heard rumours of a journalist making inquiries, he said.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Labor Senator Penny Wong received the unsigned letter and both released statements saying they had contacted the AFP. 

Senator Hanson-Young said the information she had received regarded a ‘disturbing and a very serious allegation of a criminal nature against a senior member of the government’.

The Australian Federal Police on Saturday issued a statement saying it would liaise with the relevant state authorities.

‘Further enquiries can be directed to the New South Wales Police Force,’ it said.

‘The AFP will not be making further comment.’

Ms Higgins (pictured) alleged she was raped in Parliament House after a boozy night out

Ms Higgins (pictured) alleged she was raped in Parliament House after a boozy night out 

NSW Police said in a statement on Friday night that a report of alleged historic sexual violence was received in February 2020 and detectives commenced an investigation under Strike Force Wyndarra.

‘After strike force investigators were advised that the body of a 49-year-old woman was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police (SAPOL) on Wednesday 24 June 2020, the investigation was suspended,’ the statement said.

‘NSW Police understand that reporting sexual assault can be distressing and traumatic for victims and it is always the choice of an individual whether to proceed with an investigation or not.’ 

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