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An emotional Brittany Higgins made confronting statements about her inability to consent days after being allegedly raped on a minister’s couch by Bruce Lehrmann, a court has heard.

Her mother also gave evidence that her daughter was a “broken soul” who had become withdrawn and lost her enthusiasm for life after the claimed sexual assault.

Former departmental liaison officer Christopher Payne says he saw a teary-eyed Higgins walking past his office early in the week after a reported security incident at Parliament House on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Bruce Lehrmann arrives at Supreme Court December 11, 2023.
Bruce Lehrmann arrives at Supreme Court on Monday, December 11. (Nick Moir)

He told a Federal Court defamation trial today the junior media adviser spoke of waking up on a couch in the office of her then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, to find fellow staffer Lehrmann on top of her.

“I said, ‘Did he rape you?’,” Payne said.

“Her response was, ‘I could not have consented. It would have been like f—— a log’.”

These “confronting” words by a young woman in tears in his office stuck with him, he added.

Payne, now a government relationship manager for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was giving evidence as Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson tried to establish the truth of the rape allegation featured in a February 2021 broadcast of The Project.

Lehrmann claims this report is defamatory and denies that any sexual contact between himself and Higgins occurred.

Brittany Higgins outside court.
Brittany Higgins outside court. (Louise Kennerley)

Higgins’ mother Kelly Higgins said her daughter came to live with her soon after the report on The Project and she was a totally different person to the woman she was before the alleged sexual assault.

“Her joy was gone, her desire was gone, her personal happiness was gone,” she said.

In November 2019, Higgins first disclosed the rape allegation to her mother and her mother’s then-partner at a restaurant.

“I’d just been told a mother’s worst nightmare,” she said.

Mother of Brittany Higgins, Kelly Higgins is seen leaving court after providing evidence in the witness box, outside the Federal Court of Australia, Monday 11th of December 2023.
The mother of Brittany Higgins, Kelly Higgins, is seen leaving court after providing evidence in the witness box, outside the Federal Court of Australia. (Dion Georgopoulos / The Sydney Morning Herald)

Earlier today, Payne told Justice Michael Lee he was called into the office of Reynolds’ acting chief of staff Fiona Brown days after Higgins was allegedly raped.

“You’re never going to believe this,” Brown allegedly said to Payne of the “security incident”.

In that discussion, Brown said Higgins had been found in a “state of undress” in Reynolds’ office and that Lehrmann had been fired.

Federal agents Rebecca Cleaves and Katie Thelning also took the stand to give evidence about a meeting they had with Higgins on April 1, 2019, in the Parliament House basement.

It was the first time Higgins had gone to the police regarding the rape claim.

In her notes, Cleaves wrote that Higgins described waking up to find Lehrmann on top of her and saying “no” or “don’t”.

She reported passing out afterwards and waking up confused to find him gone but with the smell of sex still lingering in the air.

She told police she had vomit stains on her dress and she used Reynolds’ deodorant before borrowing a jacket from the goodwill box in the office and leaving Parliament House.

Higgins said she had later gone to work and acted cordially with Lehrmann, Thelning said.

Lisa Wilkinson leaves the Federal Court on December 8, 2023. (Nine)

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 Higgins’ mental health.

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.

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