Canberra rape trial: Brittany Higgins texts against Bruce Lehrmann sent to Ben Dilaway
After she was allegedly raped in a Parliament House office, Brittany Higgins texted her ex to say her Friday night had not gone as expected – and that ‘I really don’t think it was consensual at all’.
Ms Higgins took the witness stand at ACT Supreme Court in Canberra on Wednesday to testify at the trial of one-time fellow staffer Bruce Lehrmann, who denies raping her in March 2019.
A security guard found Ms Higgins, now 27, alone, dishevelled and semi-naked in the parliamentary office of her boss, then-defence minister Linda Reynolds.
The court was shown video of her being questioned by police over a series of texts she sent to former lover Ben Dilaway in the aftermath of the alleged attack.
Brittany Higgins leaves ACT Supreme Court in Canberra after taking to the witness stand in the trial of her alleged rapist
Brittany Higgins sent a series of texts to old flame Ben Dilaway after she was allegedly raped in a parliamentary office by a colleague
According to messages, read out in front of the jury, Ms Higgins’s old flame Mr Dillaway asked her: ‘Was it just you and Bruce who went back there or a group of people?
‘Did you hook up in there or did someone take advantage of you?’
She replied: ‘Yes, it was just Bruce and I from what I recall. I was barely lucid.
‘I really don’t feel like it was consensual at all. If he thought it was OK why would he just leave me there like that?’
Ms Higgins told police in the interview she had already had to fend off Lehrmann when he made an attempt to kiss her in her first week in the job at a team dinner.
‘Bruce made a pass at me and tried to kiss me,’ she said. ‘I didn’t think about it all that much because I rebuffed it.
‘I didn’t think it would be a bit deal at the time. It was fine – he took it and left.’
She added: ‘I had just broken up with Ben … We never talked about it again.’
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
‘It was just the two of us. He leaned forward to my face, but at the same time I’d had other people in politics make passes at me before.
‘I didn’t want to embarrass him. Mixed signal type thing.’
Just a few weeks later, Ms Higgins alleges Lehrmann raped her after a boozy night out.
The court was played footage of two interviews Ms Higgins had with police – including a moment where she described a series of texts she sent Mr Dillaway in the aftermath of the alleged attack.
In one text, she told her ex: ‘I think I may not continue to be employed with Linda.’
Ms Higgins explained: ‘I was scared I was going to lose my job. I’m still deciding what course of action I’ll take – going to the police and going with the process.
‘I thought at some point I wasn’t going to be employed.’
Another text added: ‘On Friday night I ended up in the ministerial office – didn’t end up how I played it all out.’
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
She admitted to detectives that she had already spoken to Mr Dillaway about the previous night in a phone call on her Uber ride home from Parliament, but hadn’t accused him of rape.
‘I tried to play it down like it wasn’t a big deal,’ she told the court. ‘I didn’t disclose it or that any intercourse had happened. That’s all he knew prior to this conversation.’
She then made the rape allegation in their later text messages.
Of the messages, Ms Higgins told police: ‘It was me starting to go through the process – he was the first person I spoke to about it – the fact that I was raped.
‘It was hard because he was the only person I trusted but we had a previous relationship. I was softer in my language.’
Brittany Higgins told detectives that she had spoken to Ben Dillaway (pictured) about the alleged incident
On the night of the attack, CCTV footage revealed she had 11 drinks between 7.24pm and 11.51pm at The Dock venue in Kingston on the night of the alleged assault.
Ms Higgins could be seen on her phone, and the court was told she had organized a Bumble date for the evening.
She moved away from the main group at 8.20pm to meet her date outside the bar before bringing him inside to introduce him to everyone at the table.
He sat with the group of mainly parliamentary staff, but seemed to disappear before 8.52pm, when Ms Higgins joined another table with Mr Lehrmann and two others.
She skolled her final drink at 11.51pm before she left the pub with the group.
Ms Higgins continually told police that her recollection of the evening was ‘patchy’ and initially told them she believed she had ‘three or four’ drinks at The Dock.
She was visibly shaken after the CCTV was played to the court on Wednesday.
Footage of the interview also revealed the moment Ms Higgins visibly reacted as police showed her CCTV footage of how she came to be in Parliament House that night.
Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann (pictured) denies rapping Brittany Higgins in a parliamentary office in March 2019
Pictured: Messages between Ms Higgins and her ex-boyfriend, Mr Dilloway, after the alleged assault
She struggled to maintain her composure when she was also played the footage from another camera facing a different angle.
Her bottom lip quivered as detectives then showed her a third clip, taken just outside Ms Reynolds’ office.
She told detectives the footage was ‘very clarifying – it makes sense.
‘I didn’t know how we got through that first gate, and [now I see] that the security guard walked in with us,’ she said.
‘So he had to walk us through that first gate to get us to the second gate. Bruce clearly didn’t have his pass, then we were signed in. It makes sense.’
Earlier, police interview footage had revealed how Ms Higgins claimed she had a ‘strange moment of eye contact’ with Lehrmann after the alleged rape.
‘At that point, I didn’t say anything to him anymore,’ Ms Higgins said in the police interview.
In the interview, Ms Higgins claimed she was woken the next morning by a female security guard, who asked if everything was OK.
The young woman said she was ‘fine’, despite her dress being bunched around her waist, the court heard.
The court heard Ms Higgins then threw up in the former minister’s bathroom, before she made her way into a small room near Ms Reynolds’ former office, which had no windows, found a box of Roses chocolates and ate it while crying.
‘I pulled myself together – I was quite disheveled. I borrowed one of the minister’s jackets to cover my cocktail dress,’ she said in the police interview.
Brittany Higgins arrives at court for the second day of Bruce Lehrmann’s trial on Wednesday
Higgins arrives at court on Wednesday in a crepe lace midi dress. She is accompanied by friend Emma Webster
The following Monday, Ms Higgins told officers that she went to work and saw Mr Lehrmann.
But she said they did not talk about the night of the alleged incident – instead, he bought her coffee, the court heard.
‘I was trying to overcompensate to make it feel normal. We didn’t discuss it. We didn’t talk about it. He didn’t seem ashamed or upset.
‘It didn’t feel like something he wanted to address.’
In a second police interview, recorded in May 2021 and played to the court on Wednesday, Ms Higgins elaborated on the encounter and said she thanked him for the coffee.
‘I was still in a state of shock,’ she told detectives.
‘I perceived at the time that [Mr Lehrmann] was in a position of power over me – I didn’t want to tap the ice – I was really scared.
‘But it was this weird day … I hadn’t really processed what happened not was ready to deal with it, so I let it play out.’
She told police she didn’t think anyone would believe her story and figured Lehrmann’s words carried more weight than hers because of his more senior role.
Weeks later, Ms Higgins said she bought a pregnancy test ‘because I was late and stressed’.
The court heard she wasn’t physically examined by a doctor after the alleged assault, nor did she have a valid Medicare card at the time.
‘I was given anxiety medication to help me cope, but it wasn’t being examined about my physical health,’ she told police in May 2021.
She broke down in tears while telling the detective ‘in hindsight, I made it hard for myself.’
‘I feel so stupid.’
The case continues.