Lisa Wilkinson’s lawyer reveals Bruce Lehrmann’s frantic texts after Brittany Higgins rape claims
Bruce Lehrmann frantically texted his girlfriend to say that he was ‘up for a bit of money’ by suing Channel 10, after he watched Lisa Wilkinson’s The Project interview with Brittany Higgins in his lawyer’s office for the first time.
Mr Lehrmann on Thursday stepped into the witness box in a courtroom at an interlocutory hearing in the Federal Court to give evidence in his defamation case against Channel 10 and News Life Media.
He is suing the network and news website over stories where Ms Higgins alleged a ‘male colleague’ had raped her in 2019, at Parliament House.
He was not named in the broadcast or article, but his statement of claim argues his identity would have been known in political circles and was further ascertainable when he was charged with sexual assault and publicly named in August 2021.
Mr Lehrmann in court today described his ‘outrage’ as he watched The Project presenter Lisa Wilkinson’s interview for the first time in the chambers of his lawyer Warwick Korn on February 15, 2021.
The viewing took place after a six-hour meeting in Mr Korn’s office to address the article published in news.com.au earlier that day.
Mr Lehrmann told the court he sent a invented a claim that he was ‘up for millions’ in a text to his girlfriend, Greta Sinclair in order to placate her because she was very upset.
Under cross examination from Ten’s barrister, Matthew Collins SC, Mr Lehrmann said: ‘I was placating Greta because she was distraught, but in actual fact, I was, in a sense, putting on a brave face for Ms Sinclair.’
Mr Lehrman is pictured, clean-shaven, outside the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday morning. He is suing Wilkinson and Channel 10 for defamation
Dr Collins was trying to determine whether Mr Lehrmann relayed to Ms Sinclair exactly what Mr Korn said during their six-hour meeting: ‘What you were doing was faithfully sending contemporaneous messages to Ms Sinclair?’
Mr Lehrmann interjected: ‘They were not contemporaneous.’
Dr Collins said: ‘I have caught you out because you said (lawyer Warwick) Korn had reached out to you…
Mr Lehrman again interjected: ‘It’s hard to recall exactly the nature of the conversation taking place – I was not telling her the exact advice Mr Korn was telling me for fear it was upsetting her.’
Dr Collins continued: ‘You were inventing lines from your lawyer.’
Mr Lehrmann agreed: ‘To placate her, yes.’
Earlier, Mr Lehrmann was questioned by his own lawyer Steven Whybrow, who also defended him during the aborted rape trial in ACT Supreme Court in October last year.
Mr Lehrmann told the court he knew The Project interview and news.com.au article were about him because ‘it identified the office that the person worked with’.
He was referring to Ms Higgins’ allegations that he raped her in the office of their ex-boss, former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds.
He also said it included details about The Dock – the pub Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins attended on the night she was allegedly assaulted – but said he did not recognise himself as the perpetrator of sexual assault in the article and broadcast.
The day after both interviews were published, Mr Lehrmann checked himself into Royal North Shore Hospital, the court heard.
‘I was not in a good way,’ he told the court.
He has no recollection of being placed under ’30-minute observations’ by the hospital, but he does remember checking himself into another mental health facility once he was released. He stayed there for about 12 days.
When his lawyer Steven Whybrow asked why he was in conversations with Mr Korn about potential defamation proceedings, Mr Lehrmann said: ‘I was angry and upset and I wanted to fight back against the media.’
While not named in the Wilkinson interview with Higgins (pair pictured above), his statement of claim argues his identity would have been known in political circles
Earlier in the hearing, Wilkinson’s lawyer Sue Chrysanthou told Justice Michael Lee she would rely on a series of text messages between Mr Lehrmann and his ex-girlfriend, Ms Greta Sinclair.
The messages were sent by Mr Lehrmann on February 15, 2021 – the day the allegations about him were aired. Ms Chrysanthou said they showed Mr Lehrmann’s ‘state of mind’ at the time.
The court heard Mr Lehrmann has been speaking with solicitor Warwick Korn before and during the time that he messages Ms Sinclair. He was primarily concerned that he would be identified as Ms Higgins’ alleged rapist.
‘Warwick doesn’t think I’ll be named,’ the first message read.
‘If I’m named tonight I’m up for millions in defamation … Channel Ten, as well as the government Department of Finance, are up for a lot of money. ‘
‘I’m just getting reassurances,’ he continued. ‘I want to be sure about things.’
Following further conversations with his lawyer, Mr Lehrman wrote: ‘Criminal is off the cards completely.’
Referring to the rape allegation, he said: ‘One, it’s false, and second they have nothing.’
Higgins pictured speaking at a the Women’s March 4 Justice last year
‘But we may have civil,’ he wrote, referring to potential defamation proceedings against the network.
‘And tonight, [Mr Korn] said I won’t see the light of a court room. ‘
Mr Lehrmann then revealed he had ‘two lawyers now’, and that another legal professional told him ‘I’m up for a bit of money’.
The text messages were read to the court as part of Ms Chrysanthou’s application to oppose the extension of the limitation period.
Applicants normally have 12 months from the date of publication to file a defamation case. Mr Lehrmann waited two years to file the defamation suit. His lawyers will argue it was unreasonable for him to sue within the first year.
Wilkinson, News.com.au and Channel Ten have opposed the extension. They will argue it was reasonable for Mr Lehrmann to launch a defamation case within the first year of the allegations against him being aired.
The interlocutory hearing continues.