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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Blake Foden

'Coming for you': Lehrmann threatened in email before Higgins went public

Lisa Wilkinson prepares defence over Bruce Lehrmann defamation claims

An anonymous person sent Bruce Lehrmann a threatening email weeks before Brittany Higgins went public with her rape allegations, warning him people were "coming for you".

The mysterious missive was revealed on Friday, when the Federal Court released hundreds of pages of new material filed in Mr Lehrmann's defamation cases.

Mr Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and presenter Lisa Wilkinson, claiming they defamed him in February 2021, when The Project aired an interview in which Ms Higgins alleged a fellow former Liberal Party staffer had raped her at Parliament House.

He also alleges political editor Samantha Maiden and the website's publisher, News Life Media, defamed him in an online article released hours earlier.

Mr Lehrmann claims he was able to be identified as the alleged rapist despite not being named at the time.

Because he only sued last month, nearly one year after the expiry of the 12-month limitation period in which to make a defamation claim, Justice Michael Lee is currently considering whether to allow his lawsuits to go ahead.

Bruce Lehrmann and, inset, the threatening email he received in January 2021. Pictures AAP, supplied

The new material released by the judge on Friday includes two anonymous emails, which Mr Lehrmann forwarded to a police officer investigating the rape allegations in April 2021.

The first, sent exactly one month before Ms Higgins' claims first hit the headlines, said: "Truth will come out."

The other landed in Mr Lehrmann's Hotmail inbox 10 days later, on the night sexual assault survivor Grace Tame was named the 2021 Australian of the Year.

"Bruce, a woman spoke about what happened to her tonight, and she's Australian of the Year," this email, with the subject line "Coming for you", began.

"I want you to have a think about what you did, and what might be around the corner for you.

"It's inspiring when justice is delivered and the truth comes out. You know what they said: The truth will set you free.

Grace Tame, who was referred to in the threatening email. Picture by Karleen Minney

"How many people know what you did, and how many did you tell. How many cameras are in Parliament House and how many people tracked down the vision."

The message ends with the words: "It's going to be a magical 2021."

File notes produced by British American Tobacco, where Mr Lehrmann was employed in early 2021, were also among the masses of material released by the court on Friday.

The first file note describes how Mr Lehrmann was summoned to a meeting and told he would be suspended hours after Ms Maiden's intial story was published in February 2021.

British American Tobacco called the meeting after Rosie Lewis, a journalist from The Australian, informed the company Mr Lehrmann was the unnamed man in that article.

"Bruce indicated that he was shocked that these allegations have been made against him," the note, prepared by Mr Lehrmann's then-boss, Josh Fett, reads.

Bruce Lehrmann, who is suing journalists Lisa Wilkinson and Samantha Maiden, inset, along with their employers. Pictures by Karleen Minney, supplied

"Bruce said that he had read the story in media that morning but did not have any thought that he could have been the person involved.

"He had no recollection of the story as outlined in the media.

"Bruce said that it was wrong that he was hearing these allegations from me for the first time rather than anyone else."

At the end of the meeting, Mr Fett wrote that he had put his hand on Mr Lehrmann's shoulder and implored him to contact a lawyer and an employee assistance program.

The second note details a phone call two days later, when Mr Lehrmann told Mr Fett he was in hospital because he was "having some bad thoughts".

The material produced by British American Tobacco also includes a document Mr Lehrmann wrote four months later, by which time he was living in Queensland.

Brittany Higgins, who alleges she was raped at Parliament House. Picture by Karleen Minney

In it, he described the rape allegation as "categorically false" and told the organisation of his desire to return to work.

"I appreciate the position BATA, like me has been put in with such an allegation being made, especially through frivolous and politically strategic means in the media," he wrote.

"I feel the successful start I have made to joining BATA over 6 months ago positions me well to now continue in my employed role and I am open to having discussions regarding all options for me continuing the regulatory and external affairs work for BATA which I have and will continue to enthusiastically support."

Mr Lehrmann, who no longer works for British American Tobacco, stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year after pleading not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.

After juror misconduct resulted in a mistrial, prosecutors dropped the criminal charge.

Network Ten, Ms Wilkinson, News Life Media and Ms Maiden are all defending his defamation lawsuits.

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