Days before Brittany Higgins met with Lisa Wilkinson for the first time in a Sydney hotel room in early 2021, her fiance had said the former Liberal staffer was “scared” by his attempts to get media involved in telling her story, according to documents released by the court.
In his initial email pitch to Ms Wilkinson in January 2021, David Sharaz said he had a “sensitive story” to share about an alleged sexual assault and he was asked to “get the story told”.
Days later, on January 27, the couple met with Ms Wilkinson and The Project producer Angus Llewellyn at a Sydney hotel for an informal meeting.
Emails between Mr Sharaz and Ms Wilkinson in the lead up to the meeting were released on Friday morning by the Federal Court as part of Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Network 10 and the television presenter.
Mr Lehrmann argues Ms Wilkinson’s interview with Ms Higgins in February 2021, where he was not named as the alleged attacker, defamed him.
He has denied sexually assaulting Ms Higgins, arguing that after entering Senator Linda Reynolds’ office in the early hours of March 23, 2019, she turned right and he turned left.
In the emails released on Friday, Mr Sharaz told the journalist he had scared Ms Higgins as the media coverage began “taking off very quickly”.
“Naively, I didn’t even think about the fact that she will feel like she’s a passenger in something. The consent was taken in the initial assault, I need her to feel in control of this,” he wrote.
“My role moving forward is to be a supportive partner for a woman I adore and care about deeply.”
Ms Wilkinson responded in agreement with Mr Sharaz, saying it was crucial Ms Higgins remained the driver of the story.
She wrote: “Too many others have been in control of all that’s happened to her to this point. She is wise to want to change that.”
Mr Sharaz thanked Ms Wilkinson for her understanding as it had helped “ease her nerves”.
He admitted he “didn’t know what love was” until meeting Ms Higgins.
“I’m incredibly protective of her,” he wrote.
“I can’t thank you enough for the way you’ve handled this, and the level of respect you’ve shown her,” he said.
The emails came after a phone conversation with Ms Wilkinson, which took place just one day after reaching out to her via email.
In the initial pitch, he compliments her for her “journalistic integrity and sensitivity” around such issues.
After a quick response from Ms Wilkinson, Mr Sharaz follows up the next day again asking again to chat on the phone.
“Our plan is a March publication with hopefully an interview with you done the day before so Brittany can then leave Canberra and be with her dad in QLD,” he explains.
“Brittany knows this will blow up her life, she’s terrified of the (Liberal) party, but she wants to make sure no other woman is assaulted within Parliament House.
“It’s the only reason she’s speaking, and it’s driving her.”
The mammoth Federal Court defamation case spanned more than five weeks at the end of last year, hearing from Mr Lehrmann, Ms Higgins and Ms Wilkinson.
Mr Sharaz did not give evidence.
Justice Michael Lee has reserved his judgment, with the parties expected to return to court this month for further submissions.
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