Brittany Higgins’ close confidante Ben Dillaway was her ‘on-off’ lover and one of the first to be told of her alleged rape by Bruce Lehrmann.
Mr Dillaway, a former political spin doctor turned media guru for a global company, was thrust back in the spotlight this week after flirtatious texts with Ms Higgins were revealed in court.
Five weeks after her alleged rape, Ms Higgins sent Mr Dillaway selfies she took wearing the same white dress she wore the night she claims the incident occurred.
The pictures were part of a tranche of documents released by the Federal Court as part Mr Lehrmann’s defamation action against Lisa Wilkinson and Network Ten.
‘I’m working on my selfie game,’ she wrote to Mr Dillaway, admitting in court this week that she was ‘trying to be flirty’.
‘F***, you look hot,’ Mr Dillaway, now a devout Christian, replied to the texts.
Five weeks after her alleged rape, Brittany Higgins sent Mr Dillaway selfies she took wearing the same white dress she wore the night she claims the incident occurred
The pictures were part of a tranche of documents released by the Federal Court as part Mr Lehrmann’s defamation action against Lisa Wilkinson and Network Ten
Brittany Higgins ‘ confidante Ben Dillaway (pictured) was her ‘on-off’ lover and one of the first people she told of her alleged rape by Bruce Lehrmann
Brittany Higgins said the steamy selfies were intended to be ‘flirty’
The former Gold Coast journalist was a longstanding media adviser for Queensland Liberal MP Steve Ciobo when he first met Ms Higgins in late 2018.
The pair were thrown together while working as Coalition staffers in Parliament, but within a few months, they soon became friends and then lovers by early 2019.
Canberra insiders told Daily Mail Australia the pair had ‘just clicked’ and began what was described in court as a ‘close personal relationship’.
The friendship became intimate – but despite the closeness between the pair, their relationship never became serious.
Ms Higgins told the Federal Court this week that they had been in an on-off relationship, and would sometimes send each other ‘sexts’.
Party workers at that time recall an ‘end of the world’ mentality which swept through Canberra with the government facing apparent certain defeat at the federal election.
Coalition staffers were living on the edge of an uncertain future, said insiders, unsure of where they would be living or even if they would have a job within a few months.
Relationships like Ms Higgins and Mr Dillaway’s could quickly blow up, but just as quickly fade away, said fellow staffers.
Her whirlwind affair with Mr Dillaway had already fizzled out by the time of the alleged rape, which Mr Lehrmann strenuously denies, on March 23, 2019.
However, Mr Dillaway, 38, was still considered a close friend and confidante.
In the wake of the alleged rape at Parliament House, Ms Higgins told him the after-hours drinks had ended up at the minister’s office, which he thought was unusual.
She added: ‘I need to slow down a bit. It’s probably gotten a little out of hand recently haha.’
Three days after the alleged attack, she finally admitted to him the night ‘didn’t play out how I made out’.
‘I don’t remember getting there at all, vaguely remember Bruce being there and then I woke up in the morning half dressed by myself in the Minister’s office on Saturday morning,’ she wrote.
Former Gold Coast journalist Ben Dillaway (right) was a longstanding media advisor for Queensland Liberal MP Steve Ciobo (left) when he first met Ms Higgins in late 2018
Brittany Higgins’ whirlwind affair with Ben Dillaway had already begun to fizzle out by the time of the alleged rape, which Bruce Lehrmann (pictured) strenuously denies, on March 23, 2019
‘It was just Bruce and I really don’t feel like it was consensual at all…Why did he leave me there like that?’ she texted Mr Dillaway.
‘So he f***ed you? I hope you’re ok. This is pretty serious horrible stuff. You probably need to report this,’ he replied.
At last year’s criminal trial of Mr Lehrmann – which was abandoned because of juror misconduct – Mr Dillaway told the ACT Supreme Court that Ms Higgins was a ‘broken, shattered person’.
‘It was ‘like a light had turned off in her,’ he said.
‘I just remember her crying and really breaking down and I just had her in my arms and she was very much what I would say would be a broken person.’
He tried to persuade her to go to the police but said she told him she ‘didn’t want a soul to know’ and feared losing her ‘dream job’ in the defence minister’s office.
‘She did not want it to become, I guess, what it has now – where she is front and centre in the media,’ Mr Dillaway – who is now in a new relationship – told the court.
Mr Dillaway said he just wanted to give her support and try to get her help, and reached out to the office of then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
‘I said, “Let me discreetly go speak to someone in the Prime Minister’s Office because surely this can move things along, or surely this will get you the help you need”,’ he told the court.
Eleven days after the alleged rape, Mr Dillaway said he contacted PMO staffer Julian Leembruggen with Ms Higgins’ permission to try to get the PM’s support.
But in court this week, Ms Higgins added: ‘As much as I trusted and really adored Ben, he was still a senior media adviser to a Liberal cabinet minister.
‘I didn’t entirely trust him that it wouldn’t get back to one of his best friends [in the prime minister’s office] … so I didn’t trust that all my thoughts and feelings weren’t going straight back to Liberal CHQ [campaign headquarters].’
Scott Morrison later denied being told about the allegations until a few days before they were broadcast by The Project in February 2021.
Friends say the relationship was already on the backburner by the time of the rape allegations but Ms Higgins said she was trying to resurrect the affair five weeks later.
‘We were rekindling things,’ Ms Higgins told the Federal Court, as she explained the reason for sending him the photographs of her in the white dress.
Ben Dillaway – who is a motocross champion in his spare time – tried to get support and help Brittany Higgins in the wake of the rape allegations.
Brittany Higgins is pictured leaving Federal Court during the defamation case against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson
Ms Higgins – who is now engaged to former journalist David Sharaz – told the court she wore the dress again because it was her favourite and she wanted to ‘reclaim’ it.
She said: ‘I took the photos of myself in the bathroom because I felt awkward that night… I was trying to be flirty, I guess.’
But in the wake of the Coalition’s surprise election campaign victory in 2019, friends say the pair ‘just drifted apart and went their separate ways’.
Later that year, Mr Dillaway rediscovered his religious beliefs and ‘came back’ to his faith. He regularly now posts Bible verses on his private social media accounts.
He is due to be called as a witness in the Lehrmann defamation trial at the Federal Court on Thursday – and on Wednesday he posted a Bible verse he felt was relevant.
‘I grew up a Christian and while I’ve always believed in Jesus, I certainly haven’t always lived that way,’ the part-time motocross champion posted on Instagram.
‘When I came back to my faith in 2019 and started to read the Bible, this was one of my favourite verses.
‘As I’m forced to appear in the Federal Court tomorrow as a witness, it’s a verse I’ve returned to.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 NIV.’
Devout Christian Ben Dillaway is due to be called as a witness in the Lehrmann defamation trial at the Federal Court on Thursday and on Wednesday posted a Bible verse he felt was relevant