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Brittany Higgins denies ‘deliberately’ deleting texts as she returns to witness box in Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial

Brittany Higgins denies 'deliberately' deleting texts as she returns to witness box in Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial
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Text messages sent by Brittany Higgins about the time she was allegedly raped were accidentally deleted and were not erased as part of a deliberate strategy, a court has been told.

Higgins returned to a Federal Court witness box for a third day of questioning on Tuesday, and was grilled by Bruce Lehrmann’s legal team about missing messages from her phone.

She admitted deleting one photograph of her in a Make America Great Again hat from her phone before she handed the device over to police during their investigation into the alleged sexual assault.

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“It was something I was really ashamed of and I deleted it,” Higgins told Justice Michael Lee.

Lehrmann claims a February 2021 report by The Project on Higgins’ allegation of sexual assault destroyed his reputation, despite him not being named as the accused at the time.

Higgins alleges she was raped by Lehrmann in the early hours of March 23, 2019, in the Parliament House office of their then boss, Liberal senator Linda Reynolds.

Brittany Higgins stepped back into the witness box after a three-day break. Credit: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

He has vehemently denied any sexual contact occurred.

Lehrmann’s barrister Steven Whybrow SC claimed Higgins had done more than erase the single photo before handing her phone to police, pointing to a number of other messages later found missing from her phone.

These included messages she had sent to two men she said she had matched with on dating apps at the time, and her former boyfriend and Parliament House colleague Ben Dillaway.

Higgins denied deleting these messages intentionally because they would have contradicted her claims she was sexually assaulted.

The messages had been lost when she changed devices over the years, moved to a different iCloud account, or had been accidentally deleted, the court heard.

“I wasn’t thinking of maintaining contemporaneous evidence. It wasn’t in my mindset,” Higgins told the court.

Lehrmann was charged in August 2021 over the alleged rape, but his criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct.

Prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns for Higgins’ mental health.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

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