To get you up to speed, the best overview of the Brittany Higgins v Bruce Lehrmann rape trial is here:
I’ve been trying to avoid this post since the allegations surfaced, but I instinctively (and atypically perhaps) sided with the victim as soon as I read Sam Maiden’s breaking news. If you want a recap, read this first for context.
Time only firmed-up my gut feelings, but I still held back. I now think there’s enough on the public record to state (without any potential of interfering with a jury trial) to state whether I believe Brittany Higgins was raped.
Just as the early details of Sherri Papini in the US raised flags six years before her conviction for staging her own kidnapping, there are red flags here which permit reasonable inferences to be drawn before the trial concludes.
EXHIBIT 1: THE WHITE DRESS
Parliament House security guard Nikola Anderson says Lehrmann and Higgins signed in at 2am. Higgins says it’s not her hand-writing, but more importantly Anderson noted grass stains down one side of Higgin’s white dress and that she was virtually non compos mentis.
Higgins claims Lehrmann had been plying her with drinks at a work function. She reported being happy about this as a sign of being accepted to the team, but a more candid admission might include that she was playing the hot-girl-saves-money game with a male punching above his weight.
In any case, Lehrmann got her fall-over-drunk by the time they left the club together. The physical evidence suggests a fall after leaving the club, so most likely in company with Lehrmann en-route to the taxi.
This seems trivial but it’s important, because Higgins’ obvious intoxication nullifies the statutory defense — consent — hence the plea “I did not have sex with that woman!”
But riddle me this: Why did Higgins keep the white dress unwashed in a plastic bag for six months? Because of grass stains?
Higgins insists she woke up ‘mid-rape’ and that Lehrmann ‘finished’.
In the original Sam Maiden article, she states her dress was ‘up around my waist’ and not completely naked as Anderson reports. So the white dress could have captured evidence, and explains why she retained it.
But the not-guilty plea indicates it did not — Lehrmann either did not rape Brittany Higgins, or came prepared, or evidence was lost when Higgins washed and re-wore the white dress six months later.
This is important because it shows Higgins’ state of mind at the time of the incident. She thought there may be population-paste on the dress, but hadn’t yet decided what to do yet. And while it would have been the (ahem) icing on the cake, the dress wasn’t the only potential crime scene.
EXHIBIT 2: THE MINISTER’S COUCH
Security guard Anderson confirms Lehrmann left twenty minutes later, apparently in a hurry. When she conducted a welfare check on Higgins, she was found asleep (or semi-conscious) completely naked on the minister’s couch.
A curious thing happens next: Security call in the cleaners instead of notifying the Minister or the Federal Police. Their bosses also instruct Anderson not to discuss the matter. This screams bureaucratic protocols to me — the business-as-usual response to out-of-hours shenanigans in ministerial offices.
The couch is a crime scene. I would expect within 48 hours a Federal Police detective would have been typing out a search warrant. So far I’m yet to read anything about forensics — and I expect there is none.
Because duty of disclosure under Australian law means there can be no surprises for an accused person. Lehrmann KNOWS there’s no jism on the white dress, ministerial wallpaper, carpet or couch.
But Brittany doesn’t need a smoking gun, either. There are many reasons to explain the evidentiary gaps, including her reluctance to report the crime. And that brings me to the last of the red flags.
EXHIBIT 3: THE RECORDINGS
I have to say, this part of the evidence troubles me the most.
Higgins may have been reluctant to take the matter further officially to begin with, but she was like lightning getting it to the media. On the plus side, in doing so she made early disclosure of the rape to a friend, who set official wheels in motion.
That was a very important text message. Eliminates consent. Affirms intoxication. Identifies her rapist.
But then Higgins begins voice-recording conversations with Members of Parliament including Michaelia Cash — absolutely illegal, but asserts the only defense available: That it was for her own legal protection.
Legal protection against Parliament?
Yet her first act wasn’t to secure them somewhere safe for said legal purposes, but to send them direct to the media. A lot of people would feel inclined to ask why, with a slightly-frowny expression.
What really irks me is the interference of Lisa Wilkinson and her bald galoot husband Peter FitzSimons in securing her a $325,000 book deal. This hurts her case by creating motive for the allegations, and explain her constant media-whoring.
I mean, why not do all that AFTER the proceedings?
While it doesn’t mean Higgins is lying, it does show she’s taking mercenary advice from the #TamePunks on how to profit from tragedy. Higgins is sharpening the pencil — every fresh twist in the trial probably adds $25K to the book deal.
MY VERDICT (for what it’s worth)
On that fateful night, Brittany Higgins gave Bruce Lehrmann the false impression he’d be getting a tasty return-on-investment.
She consensually accompanied him from pub to club to a taxi to Parliament House and lay down on her minister’s couch.
Lehrmann had sex with Brittany despite it being obvious he did not have her consent. She did not consent and could not consent by virtue of intoxication.
While lack of forensics hurts her case, her early complaint is a big plus. Also, retention of the dress unwashed for so long is telling. She made some bad decision, but these were good ones.
When the official investigation commenced, Parliament’s response was appalling. Adds significant weight to explain her wavering — fear of reprisals should she rock the boat.
Brittany Higgins has an evidentiary mountain to climb. She definitely proves it on the balance or probabilities, but criminally? If she’d had ANYONE in her corner those first couple of days then she’d have the white dress examined, the couch declared a crimescene, and a SAIK the morning after to prove it all beyond a reasonable doubt.