AFP Commander Michael Chew has given evidence that he was told by investigators that Brittany Higgins had “made up” visits to a doctor in relation to her rape allegation and that police did not initially think there was enough evidence to charge.
In his first day in the witness box, he also revealed that when he reportedly told a colleague there was “too much political interference” that he was not referring to any direct interference by political leaders. He said this was more a reference to the high profile nature of the case and media scrutiny.
“Did I think it was a strong case? Probably not,’’ he told the inquiry.
“But… the threshold was definitely there because we had an alleged victim who provided a version of events, we had an alleged offender who provided a version of events. We had limited forensic (evidence).”
Brittany Higgins. Picture: Supplied
Commander Chew has provided diary notes to an inquiry examining the case today that reveal his discussions with Detective Supt Scott Moller, who was overseeing the investigators.
In one diary entry, Commander Chew writes that Supt Moller had told him Ms Higgins had “made up” doctor’s visits.
Under the heading “Scott” he wrote the following sentence.
“Brittany maintains the sexual assault but everything else doctor … were made up,’’ he wrote.
Underneath this he wrote, “SO WHAT,” but told the inquiry that the entry did not relate to the sentence that preceded it.
Australian Federal Police Commander Michael Chew wrote a diary note about the meeting. Picture: Supplied
Ms Higgins did not claim she had attended a doctor in either of her evidence in chief interviews or that she had taken the morning after pill.
However, she did tell her boss Fiona Brown that she had a doctor’s appointment in 2019 in order to take a day off work.
She had told an ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway she also went to a doctor, a claim she later admitted at the criminal trial she made to “placate” him.
The inquiry has also released multiple documents suggesting the police spent a great deal of time investigating whether or not Ms Higgins took the morning after pill and found no evidence to support this.
However, there are no documents that have emerged to date that Ms Higgins ever claimed she took the morning after pill.
The documents have outlined investigators scepticism of Ms Higgins’ allegation and their attitude towards her contact with the media.
Against the background of intense media scrutiny, Commander Chew said it was an unprecedented situation and he was mindful to shield the investigating team from that scrutiny.
“It’s the first time that I’ve seen in my experience, the media reporting to such a level,’’ Commander Chew said.
“We had the Prime Minister commenting on it. We had senior government ministers making comments in the media on it. We had government ministers who were witnesses.”
Commander Chew said he did not recall telling Supt Moller that there was “too much political interference” in the case but conceded it was possible he did say that.
“I can’t recall the exact words but I accept that that’s what Detective Scott Moller recorded.”
Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz used media as a ‘tool’
Senior Constable Emma Frizzell told the inquiry in a witness statement now published by the inquiry that Ms Higgins and her partner David Sharaz used the media as “a tool” and wanted to see how the story “played out” before providing a formal statement to police.
She also suggested in her written statement that Ms Higgins’ partner David Sharaz interrupted her during a break in her second evidence in chief interview to show her media reports.
Brittany Higgins with David Sharaz. Picture: Brittany Higgins/Instagram
“The EICI was suspended at 2.16pm to provide a break to Ms Higgins. Mr Sharaz entered the room and without concern for Ms Higgins’s welfare, commenced showing and discussing media coverage to Ms Higgins,’’ she wrote.
“I believe the level of media involvement did affect the conduct of the investigation of Ms Higgins’ complaint,” Frizzell said.
“I believe it was a tool driven by Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz, which is evident by the first engagement I had with them whereby Ms Higgins advised she wished to see how the media played out prior to providing a statement.”
She also accused her of trying to delete material from her school following a review of text messages between Ms Higgins and David Sharaz.
Ms Higgins addressed this issue during the trial admitting she was concerned that under sensitive investigation rules that the AFP needed to disclose information about her case to Peter Dutton.
As a result, she tried to send some material to friends and Mr Sharaz to protect the material. She was also concerned she may have breached the law by recording a conversation with cabinet minister Michaelia Cash.
“I was trying to give them to people, I wanted them to exist,” Ms Higgins told the court of the audio recording on her phone.