14 October 2022

Bruce Lehrmann tells his version of night he allegedly raped Brittany Higgins

| Albert McKnight
Man leaving court

Bruce Lehrmann, left, leaves court after a day at his trial. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses an alleged sexual assault.

The former staffer accused of raping Brittany Higgins at Parliament House claimed that when he and Ms Higgins arrived at their boss’s suite in the building, they went their separate ways and he didn’t see her again that night.

Bruce Lehrmann said he was “obviously nervous and distracted” when outlining his version of the events of 22-23 March 2019 in his interview with police, recorded on 19 April 2021 and played to jurors in his ACT Supreme Court trial on Monday (10 October).

Mr Lehrmann’s evidence can now be reported following the lifting of a non-publication order.

A police officer started by confronting the Texas-born then-25-year-old, who was working for British American Tobacco, with the allegation that he had raped Ms Higgins in Parliament.

“I, from the outset, reject it,” he replied.

He claimed he had been invited to drinks with Department of Defence staff on the night of 22 March 2019, along with Minister Peter Dutton’s media adviser Austin Wenke.

After a beer and a steak at the Kingston Hotel, which he called “the Kingo”, they met up with the group at The Dock, which included Ms Higgins.

READ ALSO Brittany Higgins lashes suggestion by Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister she committed a ‘deception’ to bolster rape claim

Mr Lehrmann suggested they move to 88mph in Civic as it was one of his favourite places, and he went there with Ms Higgins, Mr Wenke and Lauren Gain.

He described his intoxication as “moderate” and that he was “functioning”.

He told police he had to go to Parliament House to get the keys to the apartment where he lived with his girlfriend and claimed Ms Higgins also indicated she had to go to Parliament for “something”, but she didn’t tell him what exactly.

“I made an indication I had to go to Parliament House to get my keys. I said I’m already going there, do you want to share an Uber,” he said.

People outside court

Brittany Higgins, second right, departs the Supreme Court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Once they got to the building, he said they passed the security desk, and then a guard escorted them to Minister Linda Reynolds’ office.

“I entered the office, I turned left to my desk,” he said.

“Brittany turned right into the minister’s suite.

“I didn’t see her again.”

Mr Lehrmann said he attended to “some Question Time folders”, ordered an Uber and left.

“That’s how I recall that evening,” he said.

READ ALSO Brittany Higgins claims minister made her think there would be ‘problems’ if police told of rape allegation

He clarified he assumed Ms Higgins had gone to the minister’s office, but she could have gone to the media office and her desk.

Mr Lehrmann said he had worked in Parliament House for six years and had become Ms Reynolds’ “most senior staffer” in her Assistant Home Affairs portfolio before she took over Defence. He was asked about Ms Higgins’ role as a staffer.

“I’m not sure because I didn’t know her very well,” he said.

He said he intended to leave Canberra before the alleged rape. He had already started looking at jobs in Sydney because his girlfriend had been searching for positions in NSW Parliament.

Mr Lehrmann said the culture at Parliament House was “horrendous” and he had to work 14 to 15-hour days at times, but had just wanted to put out good policy.

He also said he went back to Parliament House after hours with other people “often to drink”.

“It was common practice, more often with your minister, but also with a senior staffer,” he said.

READ ALSO Brittany Higgins details Parliament House staff culture, relationship with ‘territorial’ Bruce Lehrmann

When asked if he and Ms Higgins had talked about having drinks at the building, he said no, and there wasn’t any alcohol in the office.

The trial, in which Mr Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, continues before Chief Justice Lucy McCallum.

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