Brittany Higgins rape trial: How Peter FitzSimons helped with $320,000 book deal

Brittany Higgins is being cross-examined on the witness stand as the first week of the trial for the man accused of raping her in Parliament House is coming to a close.

Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent against Ms Higgins in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

The cross-examination of Ms Higgins began on Thursday afternoon and has continued today, with Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer, Steven Whybrow, questioning the former Liberal staffer on a number of matters.

Court hears of Higgins’ $320k book offer

Ms Higgins has been questioned about a more than $320,000 book deal Lisa Wilkinson’s husband, Peter FitzSimons, helped her secure.

The court heard Mr Whybrow suggest that Ms Higgins had been outlining chapters for a potential book before she had sat down for her first recorded interview with police in February 2021.

The court heard that Ms Higgins received contact on March 16, 2021, that a publisher was interested in publishing her account of events.

Ms Higgins told the court she met Mr FitzSimons at an event and he told her that she should write a book and within a day had come back with an offer.

She said she didn’t ask him about a book deal, saying “he approached me”.

Mr Whybrow said Ms Higgins received contact on March 16 that indicated a publisher was prepared to offer more than $320,000 for a book deal.

The court heard that Ms Higgins replied in a message to Mr FitzSimons and Ms Wilkinson saying she was “blown away” and “can absolutely do this”.

The court heard Ms Higgins said she knew it sounded “presumptuous” but she had outlined chapters planned for about a month or so before completing her first police interview in 2021.

‘Deeply insulting’: Higgins clashes with lawyer

There has been a tense exchange between Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer.

The jury heard from Mr Whybrow that Ms Higgins told Fiona Brown that she planned on visiting a GP following her alleged rape, which the Liberal staffer never attended.

The court also heard she had previously told Mr Dillaway she was going to a GP, though she did not.

Mr Whybrow suggested the reason she never went to the GP was because she did not have sex with anyone on the night she claimed the alleged assault occurred.

“That’s not true,” Ms Higgins said.

Mr Whybrow suggested she told Ms Brown she planned to visit the GP to “bolster” her “false” claim.

“Nothing you are saying right now is true whatsoever and it is deeply insulting,” Ms Higgins said.

The court heard Mr Whybrow suggest that she told Mr Dillaway she was going to the GP to bolster him to believe her claims of non-consensual activity.

“I completely disagree with everything you are saying,” Ms Higgins said.

Mr Whybrow then suggested the reason she didn’t follow through with any of the GP appointments is because she “hadn’t had sexual intercourse with Mr Lehrmann”.

“You are so incorrect,” Ms Higgins said.

The former Liberal staffer told Mr Whybrow “I don’t know if you have ever gone through trauma before”, saying it was an incredibly difficult thing to disclose to professionals.

Ms Higgins said she was “doing my best” in the circumstances and she “completely rejects” everything Mr Whybrow was saying.

Higgins grilled over deleted text message

Ms Higgins has become visibly upset during questioning from Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer about whether she deleted a text message and audio from her phone ahead of providing the device to the police.

The jury heard Ms Higgins sent her ex-partner Ben Dillaway a text message on April 9, 2019, telling him that she was “not interested” in pursuing her complaint against Mr Lehrmann and that it was “all beyond strange”.

Mr Lehrmann asked if she remembered deleting that message off her phone.

Ms Higgins told the court that she cleared any photos of her when she was 16 with “alcohol in my hand” as well as all photos of her former employer Senator Linda Reynolds, saying she “never wanted to see” her face again.

“I wanted to scrub the horrible parts of my life out,” she said.

Ms Higgins told the court she didn’t remember when she did this.

The former Liberal staffer said she “didn’t recall” deleting the message to Mr Dillaway off her phone.

Mr Whybrow suggested to Ms Higgins that she deleted it before she handed over her phone to the police.

“I had no intent. I don’t understand,” she said.

“Do you agree that you did that,” Mr Whybrow said.

“Evidently,” Ms Higgins said.

The court heard Ms Higgins had sent audio files to her partner David Sharaz before providing her phone to police.

Mr Whybrow then suggested that Ms Higgins had sent a text to Mr Sharaz saying she was “clearing out her” phone ahead of heading it to the police, to which Ms Higgins said she provided the audio in question to police on a USB stick.

“As I said, I was trying to give them to people. I wanted them to exist. This goes to the heart of why I was concerned of handing my phone to police. That week I found out there’s a provision any politically sensitive matters that are within the remit of police get reported to the Home Affairs Minister,” Ms Higgins said.

“Peter Dutton came out and said he had this baseline outline of my case before I even gave evidence in my chief interview.”

Ms Higgins began crying and said she was “very scared” and seeking legal advice to “know my rights because I was terrified”.

‘Placating an ex-boyfriend’: Higgins emotional

Ms Higgins became visibly distressed multiple times as Mr Whybrow referred to a text message exchange she had with Mr Dillaway on March 27, 2019, after she had disclosed some information to him about the alleged assault.

In the message, the jury heard Ms Higgins told Mr Dillaway that she was “doing fine” and went to see a GP.

“I was placating an ex boyfriend,” Ms Higgins said, telling the court that she was unable to go to a GP appointment because she felt so “deeply depressed”.

“I had been assaulted at work by my colleague,” Ms Higgins said, becoming visibly upset as she finished her sentence.

Ms Higgins was seen grabbing a tissue from the box in front of her.

When Mr Whybrow asked if Ms Higgins would like a break, she responded “I’m fine”.

‘I am struggling’: Higgins cross-examined over timeline

Ms Higgins this morning told the court she was “struggling” as cross examination from Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer Mr Whybrow continued.

Mr Whybrow said Ms Higgins had asserted in a number of places, including a timeline she prepared for police in 2021, that she had met with police before April 1, 2019.

The defence suggested to Ms Higgins that it was after her meeting with Senator Linda Reynolds on April 1 that she had contact with anyone from the federal police.

The court heard Ms Higgins say she was “dealing with the trauma of post rape” in the weeks leading up to her flying to Perth for the election.

“I am doing my best. I am struggling,” Ms Higgins said.

The court heard Ms Higgins say the timeline was pieced together retroactively and she was not trying to say it was an “absolute concrete thing”.

‘I was wrong’: Higgins’ ‘mistake’ over dress evidence

The defence yesterday questioned Ms Higgins about the white cocktail dress she was wearing on the night of the alleged assault, which she had previously told the court she placed in a bag under her bed for a period of six months before wearing it one more time.

When a photo was produced of Ms Higgins wearing the dress less than two months after the alleged assault on May 15, 2019, she told the court she had “made a mistake” about the timing.

“It stayed under my bed for a particular period of time. I was wrong for saying it was six months. But it stayed under my bed unwashed for a period of time,” Ms Higgins said.

Mr Whybrow suggested Ms Higgins was not wrong but instead was “not giving true and correct evidence”, the court heard.

“I made a mistake. I was just wrong,” Ms Higgins said.

The former political staffer was also questioned about when she met with The Project’s Lisa Wilkinson to record an interview for the program.

Ms Higgins said that she hadn’t had an in depth conversation with Ms Wilkinson about her accusation against Mr Lehrmann before she emailed two police officers on February 4, 2021, explaining her wish to move forward with her complaint.

Mr Whybrow then produced a document signed by Ms Higgins stating she had recorded an interview with Ms Wilkinson for The Project on February 2, 2021.

Ms Higgins said she didn’t “necessarily want to hurt” the Liberal Party by speaking to the media about her experience.

“I wanted to address a cultural problem. I loved the Liberal Party,” Ms Higgins said.

The trial is expected to run between four and six weeks in the ACT Supreme Court.

Read related topics:Brittany Higgins & Bruce Lehrmann Trial

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