Warning to PM in rape claim letter
Scott Morrison is under pressure to stand down a minister at the centre of a historic rape allegation and to hold a parliamentary investigation after he received an anonymous letter, penned by "friends" of a dead woman who told police she was raped in 1988, calling for "justice".
News.com.au has obtained a copy of the correspondence detailing the claims of the Adelaide woman who also left behind a trove of emails, letters and statements describing an alleged assault when she was just 16 years old. The alleged incident occurred interstate.
The letter, which was sent to the Prime Minister on the day of the dead woman's 50th birthday, details the "complex and distressing" claims. The woman also sought guidance from the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before her death.
"When news [of the incident] becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will) legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew it and what they did,'' the letter states.
It also references the allegations of sexual assault made by a former Liberal staffer whose claims are now being investigated by police.
"This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins," the letter states.
"In [REDACTED]'s case, the loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.
"There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice ... and the Parliament if it is simultaneously revealed that the senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.
"This is not a partisan issue ... This is a difficult issue. Victims share information in confidence and sometimes do not want to pursue claims, at least initially.
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"In this case, [the woman] shared her story with many and begged people to help her seek justice. To date, defamation law and political inactivity have adversely affected the ability of [her] claim to be properly addressed."
The letter states that the man at the centre of the claim has "a right to protect his name" and to the presumption of innocence. But it states that NSW police cannot investigate the matter because the complainant died by suicide in June, 2020.
"Given the facts of this case, we suggest you could follow the lead of the Chief Justice of the High Court in relation to the allegations against Justice Heydon. You could ask [intelligence specialist] Vivienne Thom to conduct a discrete preliminary investigation into the matter to see what facts can be established.
"Failure to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would feel like a wilful blindness.
"We request in this case that the three of you work together to find a pathway forward in this case that does justice to [her] memory.
"If you asked anyone who knew ... them in 1987, an objective observer would have said that [they] were all impressive young people but that [she] had the most potential and would have been the one most likely to rise to high political office.
"Sadly, while the other two are in federal Parliament [she] killed herself before she was 50."
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Prime Minister now needed to weigh up whether it was appropriate for the minister at the centre of a historic rape allegation to remain in the position.
"The Prime Minister must confirm to himself that it remains the case that the Minister - that it's appropriate for him to stay in his current position," Mr Albanese told the ABC's Insiders program.
"This now will be a very much a dark cloud over the Parliament.
"This is a real test, and the Prime Minister must confirm to himself, that it remains the case that the Minister who is the subject of these allegations, that it's appropriate for him to stay in his current position."
But the Morrison Government has warned it must be left with the police.
"The AFP Commissioner was very, very clear that these are matters for police,'' Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
However, supporters of the woman warned this is not possible, because the complainant took her own life in Adelaide last year.
The letter was also sent to Liberal MP Celia Hammond and claims the complainant had also told Labor Senator Penny Wong of her rape claim in late 2019.
Mr Turnbull has called for an inquest into the death of the woman. He said the woman had written to him and his wife Lucy in 2019 to ask for their advice.
"One of the things she'd noted, I might say, was that she'd kept extensive diaries, so I hope they are still extant,'' Mr Turnbull said on Sunday at an Adelaide Writers' Week event.
"She described a pretty horrific rape that she said had occurred at the hands of this person," he told the crowd.
"We wrote back to her, obviously expressed our sympathy and, really our concern for her and what she'd experienced, but said 'you've got a lawyer, you're seeing the police, that's the right thing to do', and that was.
"There clearly needs to be some form of inquest so, I don't know what the process is here … but I think there should be."
Exactly one year ago, NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra to investigate the claims, which allegedly occurred interstate. The woman met with detectives from the NSW Police Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad in February 2020 to reveal that she had been raped by the man, before taking her own life just months later.
On Sunday, news.com.au also revealed a 45-minute recording of the dead woman talking about the allegations also exists. News.com.au has obtained the audio but has chosen not to publish it.
In one letter provided to news.com.au by a friend of the woman, she writes of her hope that the man will be prosecuted but also her fears a trial would become an "emotional bloodbath".
"I appreciate that it is still a long way off, and, as you wrote, ultimately a matter for the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions],'' she wrote.
"I guess I just worry, that a trial (if one occurs) has the potential to be an emotional bloodbath, particularly for me and anyone who appears as a witness in the case."
But it is the woman's former friends, including lawyers and business leaders, who have led the charge for a coronial inquiry into the claims and prepared the anonymous letter detailing the claims sent to the Prime Minister last week.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that all complaints should be referred to the police.
"As per the AFP Commissioner's instruction, any complaints or allegations of this nature made to anybody - whether they're Parliamentarians or journalists - should be referred to the AFP," the government spokesman said.
"As the Australian Federal Police Commissioner outlined in advice to all Parliamentarians on 25 February 2021, reporting to the police is the way to ensure any alleged crimes are properly investigated."
Under the current Ministerial Standards "Ministers will be required to stand aside if charged with any criminal offence."
The minister in question had not been charged, nor is he under any current investigation.
Originally published as Warning to PM in rape claim letter