The Queensland rape charge Bruce Lehrmann kept secret from Channel 7

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Bruce Lehrmann was going stir crazy in Tasmania, he told Spotlight producers, as he angled to be flown down to Sydney for some fun.

“Thinking about getting a box for the Sydney Test. You fellas keen?,‘’ he texted 7’s Taylor Auerbach around December 29, 2022, documents tendered in court last week disclose.

The text was accompanied with a selfie of Lehrmann and his media strategist John Macgowan who was negotiating with the program for a $200,000 tell-all interview. The pair were in a dark bar, with booze lined up, a bearded Macgowan doing the Victory sign.

“I actually started at 280k,‘’ Macgowan said of his wheeling and dealing during the criminal trial this week. ”If I had known what a sh*t show it would have turned into I would have asked for more.“

The Spotlight team was excited.

Mr Lehrmann was “not out to make a buck out of this – he’s receiving pro bono legal representation. But he’s up to his eyeballs in debt” Auerbach reported.

“If we can seal it, we’ve got to make it BIG. Will take a lot of work to cover all bases, that unseen vision and audio. It should be the most amazing thing on Australian TV ever,” Spotlight producer Steve Jackson replied.

On January 3, 2023, Mr Lehrmann had texted Spotlight producer Auerbach again saying: “I’m thinking about giving (Spotlight EP) Mark (Lllewellyn) a call and getting me up tomorrow to Sydney for a week perhaps.”

He wanted to know if there was any chance of Channel 7 getting Test cricket tickets in Sydney.

“Your man isn’t going to come off well if he wants to be seen playing golf and watching cricket in a box,” said Spotlight producer Steve Jackson to Auerbach in reply in the tendered texts.

“He will look every bit the privileged white male his detractors believe him to be.”

Auerbach was worried too. He said he was going to tell Mr Lehrmann to think of himself as an opposition leader who was 15 points ahead in the polls and that he should “shut the f***k up.”

“Exactly. Once the show goes to air he can run rampant,‘’ Jackson replied. ”Until then, he’s a ghost.”

But a few days later, Mr Lehrmann texted Auerbach again. He could catch the boat to the mainland from Tasmania but it would “take ages” and a flight, paid for by Channel 7 would be quicker.

“This is getting silly,‘’ Auerbach complained to his boss, Steve Jackson. ”Flying him to Sydney so she can go to the cricket and go see (The Australian’s columnist) Jane Albrechtsen.

A few days later, Mr Lehrmann arrived in Sydney.

It was there, Auerbach alleges, in an affidavit, that he bought cocaine and ordered sex workers at the Meriton Hotel before visiting a brothel, A Touch More Class, in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

Later, he put in an invoice for $750 for “pre-production” expenses which Auberach testified last week was to reimburse Mr Lehrmann for the purchase of drugs and a brothel visit.

Seven has denied this allegation.

Around the same time, Mr Lehrmann also signed up for an ABN number.

On January 3, Auerbach messaged Jackson again and asked him to tag along to any meetings with Mr Lehrmann.

The producer was looking for a wing man.

“If you don’t come, I’ll f**k up,‘’ he said. ”I just need you to come and give me an escape reason,‘’ Auerbach added.

Jackson said he couldn’t stay long. A few nights later, they had booked Franca, an expensive restaurant in Sydney.

Then, Auerbach alleged Mr Lehrmann had bought cocaine and returned to the Meriton and began “Googling” to outcall sex workers.

Auerbach told the court he recalled texting Jackson that Bruce was “on the warpath again”.“This is f**ked,’’ he said.

At 12.15am, after Auerbach claimed he took cocaine with his interview subject, he texted “warpath again”.

Auerbach told the Federal Court that last week this was a reference to the previous incident in November 2022 involving Thai masseuses.“ Let’s just say, it was no anomaly,‘’ he texted his boss.

However, at 3.37am on January 6, Auerbach texted again after he alleges he spent the night taking cocaine with Mr Lehrmann.

“OMG I have got the greatest yarns ever,’’ he told his boss.

Battle to secure the big interview

Three days later, Auerbach was texting his executive producer about the competition. 60 Minutes had been in the running, but didn’t want to pay.

Sky News’ head of documentaries Richard Andrews was keen to chase Mr Lehrmann, he claimed, suggesting there had been discussions at a recent event.

“Dickie Andrews has told Janet (Albrechtsen) to do whatever it takes to get BL (Bruce mr lehrmann),” Auerbach writes.

“He told her at Howard’s party. Janet told that to Bruce”.

Like 60 Minutes, Sky had no plans to pay for any interview.

Llewellyn had replied: “What more do you know?”

“I knew about what he did at Howard’s. I was there. But she wants to do us,” he said.

“Yeah but she won’t be allowed – it would be terrible for us,” Auerbach replied. “I think we should interview her as talent”, (not the host) he said.

Ultimately, Mr Lehrmann did his first print media interview with Albrechtsen in The Australian newspaper on March 17, 2023

Mr Lehrmann was not paid for the interview.

Bruce Lehrmann’s big secret

But Mr Lehrmann was keeping a big secret from Spotlight.

What producer Auerbach and his boss didn’t know, as they discussed a cameo role for Albrechtsen in the Spotlight program, was mr lehrmann was about the charged rape again.

Mr Lehrmann knew, even as he sent out defamation warning letters around Christmas to Channel 10 and news.com.au, the publisher of this website, what was coming. He was about to have his first court appearance over an alleged rape in Toowoomba.

Just a month earlier, the ACT DPP had dropped the rape charge against him citing the risk to Brittany Higgins mental health of a second trial.

Mr Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence.

He later told Spotlight he had even had to borrow money from his struggling single mum’s super to pay for legal fees and living expenses.

Mr Lehrmann has not worked full-time for three years, since 2021. “I’m a mummy’s boy, and I’m proud of it,‘’ he told Spotlight.

But just weeks after the trial collapsed, the Queensland police came knocking.

Throughout November and December 2022, police made contact with Mr Lehrmann’s legal team in an attempt to get him to attend the Toowoomba Police station to discuss the matter.

But there is no requirement for suspects in such matters to agree to an interview. He remained, as he does today, an innocent man according to the law.

On December 9, 2022, a Notice to Appear in Court was served on the defendant’s legal team for Mr Lehrmann to attend the Toowoomba Magistrates Court.

Spotlight was in the dark. They were busy booking a golf trip to Tasmania with Mr Lehrmann.

“Should I get bookings underway with Louise for Tassie mate?.‘’ Auerbach asked his boss on December 10, 2022.

If Mr Lehrmann was worried about the development he didn’t mention it when he caught up with the Spotlight EP and Auerbach later in December.

Mark Llewellyn captured happy selfies on the plane with Auerbach on his Instagram account.

“Travel broadens the mind,” he tagged the photos.

Police investigation in Toowoomba

Spotlight was left in the dark until January 11, 2023 about what was coming down the pipe as Mr Lehrmann partied and allegedly visited a brothel.

When he found out, the tendered texts show a shocked Spotlight supervising producer Steve Jackson was desperately trying to ring his colleague Auerbach, the producer appointed to be Mr Lehrmann’s babysitter and minder.

“Can you call urgently??? Mr Lehrmann has been charged with rape in Qld,” texted Jackson as his flurry of 10 calls went unanswered.

“Holy shit,” Auerbach finally replied.

Ultimately, it didn’t prove a problem for Spotlight, it was full-steam head.

Under Queensland law at the time he was charged, his name was automatically suppressed unless he was committed for trial.

After that law changed, the media fought a months-long battle to reveal his identity.

The program booked Mr Lehrmann a luxury home in Randwick, where Auerbach told the court his boss EP Mark Llewllyn, took photos of a laptop that included material from the criminal trial involving Brittany Higgins private text messages.

A strip club in Toowoomba

The Australian public would remain in the dark about the charges for months due to Queensland’s then automatic suppression.

The alleged incident that occurred in October, 2021, when he was on still facing the rape charges in Canberra.

It centred on what happened – or did not happen – after he met a young woman at a strip club in his hometown.

On Saturday, October 9, 2021, a young woman met Mr Lehrmann at a strip club called The Vault, on Ruthven.

He was wearing a cap, shorts and a polo shirt, she told police and was chunky, but not overly fat.

After drinks, they went home together. Police will allege that when she got into bed she was wearing her dress, socks and a bra.

As she started drifting off to sleep, she claims he started kissing her. Police allege he rolled her onto her back. She told police she told Mr Lehrmann to put a condom on.

The next thing she told police she remembers was being shaken awake, the male was naked and on top of her and she was only wearing a bra.

She didn’t recall taking her dress or underwear off. The male was holding up a bag of cocaine he had found in her bra and saying, “What’s this?”.

She alleges Mr Lehrmann cut up two lines and that they both snorted it.

But the two rape charges do not relate to what happened before, she alleges, the cocaine was ingested.

Rather, police will claim Mr Lehrmann failed to wear a condom when they had sex twice the next morning.

Failing to wear a condom without a partner’s permission is considered sexual ­assault under Queensland law.

She told Mr Lehrmann she needed a morning after pill.

She told police he drove her to a chemist, where she filled out a form the police obtained and popped past a McDonalds where CCTV records Mr Lehrmann buying the woman a coffee.

She did not make a police report.

Police will allege it was a month later, in November 2021, when she recognises him in press reports as the man accused in Brittany Higgins matter, that she contacted police.

Mr Lehmann’s legal team have indicated he will plead not guilty in Queensland.

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