20 October 2022

Parliament House security guard describes how she found Brittany Higgins after alleged rape

| Albert McKnight

Brittany Higgins departs the ACT courts during the trial. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses an alleged sexual assault.

Jurors heard a security guard discuss how she found Brittany Higgins in Minister Linda Reynolds’ office some time after she alleges she was raped.

Nikola Lee Anderson was one of two guards on the Parliament House security desk when Ms Higgins and her alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann entered the building early in the morning on 23 March 2019.

As Ms Higgins hadn’t left the building some time after she arrived, Ms Anderson was asked to do a welfare check on her at about 4:15 am, she told jurors in Mr Lehrmann’s ACT Supreme Court trial over Monday and Tuesday (10-11 October).

She said she entered Ms Reynolds’ suite through the same door she had let the pair in through, then walked through calling out “security” to announce her presence, but received no response and made her way to the door to the minister’s office.

“I opened the door and I found Ms Higgins,” she said.

“Ms Higgins was lying on her back, completely naked on that lounge.”

She said she thought her dress was on the floor beside her.

Ms Anderson said she thought the door made a noise when she opened it and Ms Higgins opened her eyes, looked at her, then rolled over into the foetal position.

She said she closed the door, walked out and reported what she had seen to her team leader.

Ms Anderson said when the pair had arrived at the security desk at about 1:40 am on the Saturday they were told it was “odd” they had come to the building so late and were asked if it couldn’t wait until the Monday.

“The response was, in a relatively nonchalant manner, ‘no it couldn’t’,” Ms Anderson said of Mr Lehrmann’s reply.

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

She said the pair then signed themselves in.

“To the best of my knowledge, I believe that she wrote her own name,” she said of Ms Higgins.

It was after then that Ms Anderson thought Ms Higgins was drunk, because she struggled to get her shoes back on after passing through a metal detector.

“As she was struggling, I told her not to worry about it and to carry her shoes and put them on later,” she said.

Bruce Lehrmann departs the Supreme Court during his trial. Photo: Albert McKnight.

She walked the pair to Ms Reynolds’ office then left to patrol the ministerial wing. Later in the morning, she said the other guard told her “something strange was happening”.

She was told Mr Lehrmann had left the building about 20 minutes after arriving at the office and “seemed to be in hurry to get out” and “sort of threw his pass at my colleague”.

She said her colleague had said words to the effect of “that was quick” to him and Mr Lehrmann had replied “yeah” before leaving.

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

The security guard who had also been on the desk with Ms Anderson that night, Mark Fairweather, testified on Wednesday (12 October).

He said he could smell alcohol on both Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann when they arrived at 1:40 am but they were not heavily intoxicated and he would have refused them entry if they were.

Mr Fairweather was back at the security desk when Mr Lehrmann passed it on the way out of the building at 2:33 am.

“He was on the phone, he wasn’t paying attention,” Mr Fairweather said.

“I wanted to ask him about the lady and I said, ‘Are you coming back’, and he just replied hastily, ‘No’, and flicked the pass onto my desk.”

In cross-examination from barrister Steven Whybrow, he admitted he told police Ms Higgins was “willingly” with Mr Lehrmann when they arrived at the security desk.

Then in re-examination from Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC, he said while he also told police he thought she had written her own name when signing in, after seeing closed-circuit television footage of the incident and the sheet they signed, he no longer thought she had signed her own name.

“The gentleman is doing all the writing, it looks like,” he said earlier when watching the footage.

The trial, in which 27-year-old Mr Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, continues before Chief Justice Lucy McCallum.

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