Brittany Higgins: Blunt disclosure to former colleague heard in Bruce Lehrmann trial

Brittany Higgins told former colleagues she had been raped in the days after she alleges the incident occurred, a jury has been told.

Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse with Ms Higgins without her consent and being reckless to her consent.

On Tuesday, the court heard from Christopher Payne, who worked with the former Liberal staffers as a department liaison officer in the office of then defence industry Minister Linda Reynolds.

He recounted a conversation he had with Ms Higgins in the days after the incident in which he recalls she was “visibly upset”.

“The description of the events that Brittany gave me was that she had returned to Parliament House with Mr Lehrmann in an Uber and had come through security to the office,” Mr Payne told the court.

“She recalls, I believe, that she was near the window sill in the office and then effectively blacked out and did not recall anything further until such time as she woke up on the couch in the office with Mr Lehrmann on top of her.

“She indicated that he was having sex with her at that time.”

Mr Payne told the court he then asked her if Mr Lehrmann had raped her.

“She said, ‘I could not have consented. It would have been like f***ing a log’, and at that point she was very upset again,” Mr Payne said.

Nikita Irvine, who was working as the military aide de camp in then-Minister Linda Reynolds office, told the court Ms Higgins also told her she had woken up with Mr Lehrmann on top of her.

“I said, ‘Okay. Do you think?’, and she said, ’Yes, definitely’. So, I was alluding to the fact that there was an alleged assault and she said, ’Yes, that definitely happened,’” she told the court.

Mr Lehrmann denies ever having sex with Ms Higgins in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

A security officer, Nikola Anderson, who was on duty the night of the incident, testified that she observed the pair to be inebriated and had offered to call Ms Higgins an ambulance when she found her naked in Senator Reynolds’ office.

The court also heard from Carlos Ramos, the cleaner called to Parliament House on the afternoon Ms Higgins was found. He was told to look for evidence of a party.

“You need to look for something like a party, like condoms or something like that,” he said his boss told him.

Former colleague Nicole Hamer, who was employed at the time as a media Adviser, told the court Mr Lehrmann was known for having alcohol, including whiskey, in his previous workspace.

“He had quite a big range of alcohol. There was spirits, there was whisky, there was wine … it was quite a substantial amount of alcohol,” she said.

Asked if that had moved with him to the ministerial wing on Senator Reynolds’ promotion, she could not say.

Earlier, the jury heard from Senator Reynolds then-chief of staff Fiona Brown, who acted as Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann’s boss at the time of the incident.

Ms Brown, who spent most of Tuesday being examined, at one point had to leave the courtroom after becoming distressed.

The court was told she promptly organised meetings with both Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins after being informed of the security breach, involving their after-hours access to Parliament House.

Mr Lehrmann had been previously warned over a security breach earlier that month for mishandling classified documents, Ms Brown said.

The court heard in the meeting Mr Lehrmann denied the pair were inebriated and told her that they had come back to the office to drink whiskey.

After that she asked him to collect his things and check back in with her before leaving, but he never did, she told the court.

Ms Brown also told the court she met with Ms Higgins shortly after the incident and asked her to explain the circumstances in which she was found naked.

“She said to me she was responsible for what she drank and her actions,” Ms Brown said.

At no point in that first meeting, Ms Brown told the court, did Ms Higgins directly tell her she had been sexually assaulted.

Asked about a text message Ms Higgins sent her later that day, in which she wrote “vocalising things” was “confronting”, Ms Brown said she took that to be about the “part of the conversation about her being found in a state of undress”.

She told the court it wasn’t until a meeting two days later that Ms Higgins told her she “remembered him on top of me”.

Ms Brown told the court she offered to talk to Ms Higgins about it, but she shook her head and said she “just wanted to talk to her dad”.

During a phone conversation the next day, Ms Brown told the court she had planned a meeting between herself, Ms Higgins and Senator Reynolds the following week.

“Minister Reynolds did most of the talking and she wanted to check on the welfare of Brittany,” Ms Brown told the court, adding the meeting took place in the ministerial office.

“Senator Reynolds said, ‘You know, if you want to – if you want to do something, we will really support you and we’re happy to help you. If you let us know, we can help facilitate that’.

“ (Ms Higgins) was concerned about how this could impact her career and Senator Reynolds said there would be no impact to her career and that she had our full support.”

Later that day, Ms Brown organised a meeting between Ms Higgins and the Australian Federal Police, the court was told.

Previously, the court was told Ms Higgins took an inference from conversations with Ms Brown that if she did not go to Western Australia for the federal election, she would not have a job should the Coalition win government.

Asked about that claim, Ms Brown responded “no”.

The trial continues.

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