A Queensland state politician says he clearly remembers Brittany Higgins telling him of her alleged rape in Parliament House weeks after the incident.
Giving evidence in the Federal Court on Monday, Liberal National Party MP Sam O’Connor recounted a text exchange he had with Higgins on April 19, 2019.
“Sorry, I’m just over it,” she wrote to him.
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“This super f***ed up thing happened a little while ago and I’ve just lost the fight.”
In a phone conversation soon after those texts, Higgins said she had been raped by a male Liberal staffer, O’Connor told the court.
“She told me that he had taken her back to Parliament House and that he had raped her,” he said.
“I absolutely remember the word rape, that’s not something that you forget.”
Brittany Higgins disclosed the alleged rape to a Queensland MP. Credit: AAP
O’Connor is giving evidence in a defamation trial brought by the man Higgins accuses of raping her, Bruce Lehrmann.
He is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a February 2021 report on The Project regarding the Higgins rape claim, which he vehemently denies and says destroyed his reputation.
Higgins alleges she was sexually assaulted by Lehrmann in Senator Linda Reynolds’ office on March 23, 2019.
In subsequent phone calls, Higgins told O’Connor that she didn’t want to report the alleged incident to police fearing it would “define her” personally and professionally.
Being a “real go-getter” who was excited about her parliamentary job before the alleged incident, the Liberal National MP recounted how Higgins’ demeanour had changed after the alleged rape.
“She absolutely was different,” he told the court.
Network Ten executive producer Christopher Bendall and editorial consultant Peter Meakin are also scheduled to get in the witness box after O’Connor’s evidence.
Fiona Brown, who was Senator Reynolds’ acting chief of staff at the time of the alleged rape, could also take the stand on Monday afternoon.
Bruce Lehrmann. Credit: AAP
Higgins has accused Brown of trying to silence her regarding the rape allegation which came out at a sensitive time before a federal election the coalition was widely considered as being on track to lose.
Lehrmann stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court charged with raping Higgins, but it was derailed by juror misconduct.
Prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns for Higgins’ mental health.
He has been charged with allegedly raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021 and remains before Queensland courts.
He has not yet entered a plea but lawyers have indicated he denies that allegation.
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.