Brittany Higgins: Bruce Lehrmann’s police interview played to jury in rape trial

Bruce Lehrmann did not check on Brittany Higgins before he left Parliament House on the night she alleges he raped her, a jury has been told.

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

On Monday, the jury heard Mr Lehrmann’s account of the night in question for the first time, given to police during an interview in early April 2021.

During the close to three hour police interview, Mr Lehrmann said he had purposely left his keys at parliament before going out on Friday, March 22, 2019. He also told police that during the course of the evening, which included drinks with Defence contacts, he remembered had to “attend the office to do some work”.

That work, a jury was told, included sticking tabs and handwriting notes on a question time briefing for then-defence industry Minister Linda Reynolds.

Following that, Mr Lehrmann told police, he “exited out the back door” without checking on the whereabouts of Ms Higgins, who he said was at that point either in Senator Reynolds’ office or the media space.

“My intent was to get what I needed,” he told police.

“There was nothing in my mind that said to me that I needed to be looking after her.”

He told police that night he was just being a “gentleman” by offering to share an Uber back to parliament after Ms Higgins indicated she also needed to pop back to work.

Asked by police what work she needed to do, he could not say.

“She had indicated she needed to do something herself … I don’t go into other people’s business,” Mr Lehrmann said.

At one point, Mr Lehrmann denied he ever told then chief of staff Fiona Brown he had returned to parliament to drink whiskey.

“I didn’t have any alcohol … That was certainly not the reason to go back to the office,” he told police.

During his interview, Mr Lehrmann said he had been the one to suggest the group of four – himself, Ms Higgins, Lauren Gain and Austin Wenke – kick on for a “boogie” at Canberra’s 80s nightclub 88mph.

He described his level of intoxication as “moderate” and claimed he had “no reason to believe” Ms Higgins was any more inebriated than he was.

Police repeatedly quizzed him on whether he engaged in “any intimate behaviour” with Ms Higgins at the club.

He initially said he could not recall before acknowledging “it (was) possible”.

“But I wouldn’t have acted on anything beyond flirtation because I was in a relationship,” he told police.

During the time Mr Lehrmann alleges he was doing work at his desk, police told him he missed multiple calls from a number they identified as being his then girlfriend.

He told police his phone was “always on silent”.

Asked why she would have called so many times in such a short period of time, Mr Lehrmann suggested it was because he was out much later than he informed her he would be.

At the time of the incident, Mr Lehrmann told police he’d been dating his then girlfriend for around six months.

She had just accepted a job in Sydney and that had accelerated his plans to get out of politics, which he said had left him “mentally scarred”.

He told police Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie was “notorious” for not treating her staff well, which included himself.

“More broadly the culture was horrendous … I had just had enough,” Mr Lehrmann said.

The jury was told Mr Lehrmann first found out about Ms Higgins‘ allegation from his boss after The Australian political reporter Rosie Lewis emailed to ask if the former Liberal staffer would provide comment.

He became emotional as he told police he had contemplated taking his own life.

“I was ready to go,” he said.

“That week I lined up everything. I was thinking mum would be OK. She would get my super.”

The trial continues.

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