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‘Terrified’: Higgins says Peter Dutton said he knew about complaint before police interview

Higgins “openly admitted” to deleting data as she wanted to “scrub” them from her life, including text messages and photos of former Coalition minister Linda Reynolds, who she worked for when Lehrmann allegedly raped her in a parliamentary office in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

“It wasn’t done with the intent of keeping things from the police, but purging things from my life once it went public,” she said.

Bruce Lehrmann (centre) denies raping Higgins in Parliament House in March 2019, and says the pair never had sex.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Any photo when I was 16 and had alcohol in my hand I just cleared off my phone, I never wanted to see Linda Reynolds’ face again, so I cleared her … I wanted to scrub all the horrible parts of my life out.”

On Thursday, the court heard Higgins made secret recordings of conversations with former Coalition minister Michaelia Cash, who she worked for after Reynolds, and her chief-of-staff Daniel Try, about her sexual assault allegations and distributed them “to as many people as possible” for safe-keeping, including a journalist.

On Friday, Whybrow also asked Higgins about a message to her ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway, with whom she was rekindling a relationship, in April 2019, in which she said she was “not interested in pursuing it [the allegation] … it’s all beyond strange”.

Higgins replied that, “as much as I trusted and really adored Ben, he was still a senior media adviser to a Liberal cabinet minister, so I didn’t entirely trust him that it wouldn’t get back to one of his best friends [in the prime minister’s office] … so I didn’t trust that all my thoughts and feelings weren’t going straight back to Liberal CHQ [campaign headquarters].”

Higgins said under cross-examination that she had told Dillaway that she would see a doctor in the days after the alleged assault, but didn’t end up going as she was “placating him”.

Whybrow also put to her that she had asked Reynolds’ then-chief of staff, Fiona Brown, for the Friday off after the alleged incident to see a doctor. She agreed that she hadn’t seen a doctor on the Friday either, having met up with Dillaway the night before and again for breakfast, as he was consoling her.

She said she was otherwise bed-bound and unable to follow through with the medical appointments due to the stress of vocalising her experience. “I was raped in my workplace, what do you want from me?” Higgins said to Whybrow during a heated exchange before the jury.

The defence lawyer put to her, “the reason you didn’t go to a doctor is because you didn’t have sex with anybody on the Friday night, consensual or otherwise”, adding she told Brown and Dillaway she was going to the doctor to bolster her “false suggestion” that she had been assaulted.

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Higgins replied, “nothing you are saying right now is true, and it’s deeply insulting,” adding she completely disagreed with everything he was saying.

Whybrow repeated his proposition, to which Higgins replied, “You are so incorrect, I don’t know if you have ever gone through a trauma before but confronting it with professionals is a very hard thing to do.”

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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