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Brittany Higgins’ texts about alleged rape were deleted by accident, court hears

Text messages sent by Brittany Higgins about the time she was allegedly raped were accidentally deleted and were not erased as part of a deliberate strategy, a court has been told.

Dec 05, 2023, updated Dec 05, 2023
Brittany Higgins arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney, Thursday, November 30, 2023. Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson in the Federal Court, claiming their interview with Brittany Higgins on The Project in February 2021 defamed him. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING

Brittany Higgins arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney, Thursday, November 30, 2023. Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson in the Federal Court, claiming their interview with Brittany Higgins on The Project in February 2021 defamed him. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING

Ms Higgins returned to a Federal Court witness box for a third day of questioning on Tuesday, and was grilled by Bruce Lehrmann’s legal team about missing messages from her phone.

She admitted deleting one photograph of her in a Make America Great Again hat from her phone before she handed the device over to police during their investigation into the alleged sexual assault.

“It was something I was really ashamed of and I deleted it,” Ms Higgins told Justice Michael Lee.

Mr Lehrmann claims a February 2021 report by The Project on Ms Higgins’ allegation of sexual assault destroyed his reputation, despite him not being named as the accused at the time.

Ms Higgins alleges she was raped by Mr Lehrmann in the early hours of March 23, 2019, in the Parliament House office of their then boss, Liberal senator Linda Reynolds.

He has vehemently denied any sexual contact occurred.

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steven Whybrow SC claimed Ms Higgins had done more than erase the single photo before handing her phone to police, pointing to a number of other messages later found missing from her phone.

These included messages she had sent to two men she said she had matched with on dating apps at the time, and her former boyfriend and Parliament House colleague Ben Dillaway.

Ms Higgins denied deleting these messages intentionally because they would have contradicted her claims she was sexually assaulted.

The messages had been lost when she changed devices over the years, moved to a different iCloud account, or had been accidentally deleted, the court heard.

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“I wasn’t thinking of maintaining contemporaneous evidence. It wasn’t in my mindset,” Ms Higgins told the court.

Mr Lehrmann was charged in August 2021 over the alleged rape, but his criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct.

Prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns for Ms Higgins’ mental health.

Mr Lehrmann is also before Queensland courts accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.

He has not yet entered a plea, but his lawyers have indicated he denies the charges.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

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