Bruce Lehrmann’s attorney received an email of threats after defending his client against Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations for the first time before a jury.
In a statement to a committee of inquiry investigating the way the ACT Supreme Court trial against Mr Lehrmann was handled by prosecutors and the Australian Federal Police, lawyer Steven Whybrow revealed he had forwarded a threatening email to ACT Police.
In his statement to the inquiry, Mr Whybrow said that while the sender ‘could be an idiot’, he was concerned about a potential threat to his family.
The email, which was sent to Mr Whybrow’s chambers on 5 October and passed into the hands of Daily Mail Australia, described the defense lawyer as a ‘scum-sucking pond beast’ and a ‘petty immoral vampire’.
It suggested that he would be publicly harassed for representing Mr. Lehrmann. The message was sent from an anonymous email address with the username ‘Somebody Who Knows’.
Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to one charge of alleged rape against Brittany Higgins. The trial was eventually aborted due to juror misconduct and charges against Mr. Lehrmann were dropped due to concerns about Ms. Higgins’ mental health.
Mr. Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence.
Bruce Lehrmann is pictured, left, outside the ACT Supreme Court with his attorney Steven Whybrow, right
The email to Mr Whybrow, referenced in the inquiry, began with an alleged quote from Mark Twain: “Pretty sure Mark Twain actually said, ‘Never let the truth come near the scum-sucking pond beast known stands as a defense attorney, for they will disfigure, twist, and tear apart until there is not a shred of truth in what they say.”
It continued, “Well, I think (as a defense attorney) pays well, even though no one will ever look you in the face again for being a meaningless immoral vampire profiting from deceit and misery.”
The email continued, ‘Canberra is a small town, you still need to eat out and shop. I hope no one ever bothers you about this in public, it would be a real shame if it ever happened.”
“I mean, imagine you’re in a restaurant having dinner with your family and some weirdo comes along…that would be awful, I bet, anyway, I hope it never happens to you.”
Mr Whybrow asked police to identify the person behind the email. An ACT Policing spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia last week: ‘No charges have been brought as the author could not be identified.’
Read excerpts from the shocking email sent to Steven Whybrow
Pretty sure Mark Twain actually said, “Never let the truth come near the scum-sucking pond beast known as a defense attorney, for they’ll disfigure it, twist it, and take it apart until there’s not a shred of truth left.” in what they say.
Canberra is a small city, you still need to eat out and shop, I hope no one ever harasses you about this in public, that would be a real shame if it ever happened
I mean imagine you’re in a restaurant eating with your family and some crazy guy comes on…. that would be horrible I bet, anyway I hope it never happens to you.
Brittany Higgins (pictured with her fiancé David Sharaz) accused Mr. Lehrmann of raping her. He has always denied the accusation
In a separate development, statements released by the inquiry earlier this week also revealed that the relationship of Mr Whybrow and Shane Drumgold, the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions and Chief Prosecutor in the case, has broken down completely as a result of the criminal case of Mr. Lehrmann.
(It is not suggested that Mr. Drumgold, or anyone else, was responsible for the message Mr. Whybrow received.)
The Commission of Inquiry was launched after Mr Drumgold sent a fiery letter to ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan on November 1, 2022 – between when a mistrial was announced in October and when the case was completely dropped on December 1.
In the letter he claimed there was political interference in the investigation into Mr Lehrmann – that is, he accused ACT Policing, the Australian Federal Police and the Police Commissioner of trying to get Ms Higgins’ complaint dismissed.
However, during the inquiry this week, Mr Drumgold backtracked on those claims – admitting that all the problems he identified in the inquiry were likely due to ‘police shortage’ rather than a wider conspiracy not to charge Mr Lehrmann.
My Whybrow’s statement shows that he was friends with Mr Drumgold prior to the rape trial, and had even recommended the prosecution for the position of DPP in 2020 when he was president of the ACT Bar Association.
In his recommendation to the High Court three years ago, Mr Whybrow said: ‘May it please the Court, I inform the Court that the next member of the Bar here present has been appointed as Senior Counsel in the Australian Capital Territory.
“He’s Neville Shane Drumgold.”
In his recent statement to the inquiry, Mr Whybrow said he had also recommended that Mr Drumgold’s title be elevated to Senior Counsel.
“In addition to supporting Mr. Drumgold’s application, based on his experience and competence, I believed that the DPP’s office should bear the title of Senior Counsel, given the status and importance of the position,” he said in his statement at the inquiry.
“I felt it was a way of giving the general public confidence that the DPP was a highly respected practitioner, as judged by its peers.”
He went on to say that he believed the pair had a “friendly relationship” prior to the trial.
“We disagreed sometimes – and sometimes violently – but the relationship was never less than cordial and professional,” he said.
Daily Mail Australia understands that the case has damaged the once close professional relationship.
The Commission of Inquiry was set up after ACT DPP Shane Drumgold (pictured) alleged there was political interference in the investigation into Mr Lehrmann
During this week’s investigation, Mr Drumgold was questioned by four lawyers over five days about all the decisions he made leading up to, during and after the trial.
On Friday, Lisa Wilkinson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou, blasted him for failing to correct a file note he wrote after meeting the TV presenter and her Channel 10 lawyer in the run-up to the Logie Awards last June .
The note stated that Wilkinson had been warned not to mention Mrs. Higgins in her acceptance speech, in case she won the prize. She was nominated for her interview with Ms Higgins on Channel 10’s The Project in 2021.
During the speech, which was broadcast nationally, Wilkinson appeared to side with Ms Higgins, saying she “believed” her accusations. She did not mention the trial, Mr. Lehrmann, any criminal charges or the House of Parliament.
Wilkinson faced extreme criticism, which ultimately resulted in Mr. Lehrmann’s trial being delayed.
Lisa Wilkinson is pictured giving her Logies speech last year. She was widely criticized for her speech
Mr Drumgold had insisted that his file note on conversations with Wilkinson and her lawyer was out of date, meaning he had made it immediately after the meeting.
However, under cross-examination, Mr Drumgold admitted that the note on the file was not contemporaneous, but was made days after the meeting and may not accurately reflect what happened at the meeting with Wilkinson in June.
Mr Drumgold said during the inquiry that he believed the TV presenter had been adequately warned as he saw that Wilkinson and her lawyer had put their Microsoft Teams meeting on hold and were having a private conversation.
“I was convinced they knew she couldn’t make that speech,” Mr Drumgold said.
Mrs. Chrysanthou: “Have you read their lips?”
Mr Drumgold: ‘No’.
Mrs. Chrysanthou: “How could you draw that conclusion?”
Mr Drumgold: ‘Because an experienced journalist alongside a lawyer would have come to that conclusion.’
Mrs. Chrysanthou finally said, “The answer you just gave is illogical and irrational and contrary to human experience.”
Wilkinson’s lawyer also questioned Mr Drumgold about why he had not told Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, who presided over Mr Lehrmann’s rape trial, that his file note was not contemporaneous.
Her honor got the proof letter and observed it – [in the court transcript] you say the speech was “undesired – the tasting notes may be open to interpretation,” she said.
Ms Chrysanthou went on to explain that trial notes were normally used in criminal cases and were considered contemporaneous notes: “You are misleading the Chief Justice,” she said.
Mr. Drumgold: “Not on purpose.”
Ms Chrysanthou further argued that Mr Drumgold caused Wilkinson’s ‘destruction’ by submitting the file note which he said was contemporaneous but was not.
The investigation continues on Monday.