Au revoir: Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz seek fresh start

David Sharaz did not name Brittany Higgins in an email titled "MeToo, Liberal Party, Project Pitch".

David Sharaz did not name Brittany Higgins in an email titled "MeToo, Liberal Party, Project Pitch". Photo: AAP

Brittany Higgins and her fiance David Sharaz have departed Australia to reportedly start a new life in France after a gruelling couple of years of court trials.

The couple was photographed by a paparazzi agency at Brisbane International Airport late on Monday night.

They bid an emotional farewell to Higgins’ parents Kelly and Matthew before boarding a flight to the other side of the world for a quiet life.

Higgins has reportedly purchased a house in a remote French village and plans to learn the language and study while living there.

The property is about 600 kilometres from Paris in an area known as the ‘land of mountains and springs’.

A relaxed Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz. Photo: InstagramThe move comes after another tough month in which Higgins was grilled during Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Channel Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.

In a late night hearing on Monday, the court heard from Higgins’ and Lehrmann’s former chief of staff Fiona Brown, who worked for Senator Linda Reynolds.

Brown told the court her “antenna was up” after asking Lehrmann about a late night visit to Parliament House.

The former chief-of-staff said she had no reason to think he was lying and “accepted what everyone said” while asking questions about a weekend security breach.

“This was not an investigation,” Brown told the Federal Court on Monday.

It was almost two years before news reports emerged of Higgins’ claim she was raped in Reynolds’ office on March 23, 2019.

Brown denied Higgins told her in a meeting on March 26, 2019, she had been raped. 

“She did not disclose that to me,” she said.

Brown was surprised and shocked two days later when Higgins left another meeting with the “quite casual” remark that she remembered “him on top of me”, she told the court.

Lehrmann’s name was not used, Brown said.

Fiona Brown denied Brittany Higgins told her she’d been raped three days after the alleged incident. Photo: AAP

She said she had no reason to disbelieve Higgins but did not understand what she had allegedly meant.

“I couldn’t be making a criminal allegation against someone, Higgins needed to expressly tell me that this was something she did not want.”

She also denied Higgins was hysterical and crying in the first meeting but said she gave her a tissue for a “watery eye” and a brochure for counselling through an employee assistance program.

She had earlier talked to Lehrmann, who left his ministerial pass with security on his way out afterwards.

“Bruce, I asked you to return it to me, I’m disappointed you’ve failed to follow a direct request,” Brown later texted him.

Brown said she was curious and concerned about a potential security breach when she spoke to Lehrmann after learning he and Higgins had attended after hours and apparently intoxicated before he left and she was found in a state of undress the next day.

“Did you suspect at that point that they had had sex?” Wilkinson’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC asked.

“I couldn’t rule it out and I couldn’t rule it in,” Brown said.

Justice Michael Lee suggested Brown had not formed the view Lehrmann was lying, but thought he was not being entirely candid.

“Yes my antenna was up,” Brown said.

The court’s livestream was turned off for Brown’s evidence after mental health reports were presented to the court.

She returns on Tuesday.

-with AAP

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