Bombshell detail in pic of leaked Brittany Higgins text

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Ex-Spotlight producer Taylor Auerbach claims in a signed affidavit that the reflection of a Seven exec can be seen in pictures of Brittany Higgins’ private text messages.

The untested claims are contained in an affidavit uploaded to the Federal Court website on Wednesday morning.

The affidavit also claims that Bruce Lehrmann spent money on “drugs and prostitutes” including a trip to a Surry Hills brothel in January, 2023, in the company of the Seven staffer as the network tried to sign him up for an exclusive interview.

In a statement outside of court, Seven said it was unaware of the real purpose of the expenditure and these alleged activities took place without the knowledge or consent of anyone on the Spotlight program.

Man in the mirror

In the lead-up to securing the exclusive in early 2023, Spotlight arranged accommodation for Mr Lehrmann in an apartment in Randwick.

The Auerbach affidavit claims that during that period of time the accommodation was booked in Auerbach’s name on a Seven credit card.

In a stunning submission in Tuesday’s hearing, Lisa Wilkinson’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou told the court that a photograph contained in the affidavit would show Mark Llewellyn, the executive producer of the Spotlight program, in the reflection of a laptop screen.

The claims are included in the affidavit, which states: “Mark Llewellyn took these photos at a meeting he had at a house rented in my name for the applicant in Randwick on 4 March 2023. Mark Llewellyn’s image which is reflected from the laptop screen is visible on the photographs.”

Several images are included in the affidavit, that appear to show the reflection of Mr Llewellyn’s face, on a screen showing Ms Higgins’ text exchanges in a conversation with Wilkinson’s husband Peter Fitzimmons.

Auerbach’s claims will be subject to cross-examination when he takes the witness stand at the Federal Court on Thursday afternoon.

Drugs, brothel claims

In January 2023, the affidavit states Mr Lehrmann travelled to Sydney for talks with Seven over the exclusive interview.

“I recall that monies paid by the applicant for illicit drugs and prostitutes that evening at the Meriton and the following evening at a brothel in Surry Hills were reimbursed to the applicant by Seven through ‘per diems’ via invoice,’’ the Auerbach affidavit states.

In the affidavit, Auerbach also details “a receipt for Sensai Thai Massage on 26 November 2022 when Mr Lehrmann was at his (Auerbach’s) home for approximately $10,315”.

A third man was also present, former Liberal staffer John MacGowan, a friend who was providing media advice to Mr Lehrmann.

However, the Auerbach affidavit states that while Mr MacGowan was present at the Elizabeth Bay property that he did not “benefit” from the Thai masseuses who arrived.

“I wish to clarify that although John MacGowan was present that evening he did not benefit from the Thai massages,’’ the affidavit states.

“My recollection is that he left soon after the masseuses arrived. Since swearing my First and Second Affidavit, I logged into my AirBandB account and located a copy of the receipt for the Tasmanian accommodation that I booked for the benefit of the applicant and John MacGowan as part of my role working on Trial and Error.”

Deleted material

The affidavit states Auerbach had deleted some material allegedly at the request of his bosses.

“I had deleted most of the material in my possession concerning the applicant prior to leaving Seven at the request of Mr Llewellyn and Seven’s lawyers,” he said.

“The only material that has remained in my possession have been photographs on my phone or documents that had been saved to my iCIoud. To my knowledge.

“In the days prior to the episode going to air in June 2023 I was in Mark Llewellyn’s office at Seven in Eveleigh. He said to me: ‘I’ve just gotten off the phone to lawyers. I’ve decided to wipe all contact that I’ve had with Bruce and documents he gave me. I cannot tell you to do the same but it might be a good idea.’

“I followed this direction and immediately proceeded to delete any communications in relation to the applicant I could see on my phone.”

In the days after the episode went to air, Auerbach claims he received a phone call from Richard Keegan at law firm Addisons.

“He was our regular external lawyer. He said to me: ‘I’ve heard that Ten and Lisa are not very happy about the broadcast and might come after us. It might be a good idea to have a look at everything, especially the raw interview tapes.’

“I understood that this meant that I should delete any materials that could be damaging for Seven. I followed this direction and permanently deleted anything that I could find on my computer and phone at the time.”

To prepare the affidavit, Auerbach stated he searched and located documents that were on iCloud storage.

These documents included:

“(a) The AFP Statement of Facts. This was provided to me by the applicant by Airdrop or

WhatsApp at a meeting at Mark Llewellyn’s house in Bronte on 3 December 2022;

“(b) Cellebrite extraction report of texts between Brittany Higgins and Ben Dillaway. This

was provided to me on or about 18 December 2022 in Bridport, Tasmania during a

golf trip paid for by Seven I arranged with the applicant, Mark Llewellyn and John

MacGowan;

“(c) Photographs of a document on a laptop being screenshots of text messages between

Peter FitzSimons and Brittany Higgins. Mark Llewellyn took these photos at a

meeting he had at a house rented in my name for the applicant in Randwick on 4

March 2023. Mark Llewellyn’s image which is reflected from the laptop screen is

visible on the photographs. I recall that Mark told me he was going to meet Bruce that day for Bruce to give us a ‘digital dump’.”

“Mr Llewellyn then sent the photographs to me by WhatsApp in late May or early June 2023 which I saved,’’ the affidavit said.

Taylor Auerbach claims he has ‘receipts’

The receipts he allegedly retained included the following.

(a) Receipt for a meal at the Chophouse Restaurant, Sydney with the applicant, John

MacGowan, Mark Llewellyn and Steve Jackson on 31 January 2023 – $555.04;

(b) Round of golf at Barnbougle, Tasmania and related equipment on Dec 18, 2022 –

$401.83;

(c) Text message from applicant to me on 28 November 2022 regarding the cost of flights

for a court appearance approved by Mark Llewellyn;

(d) Text message from the applicant to me on 13 March regarding accommodation in

Randwick and seeking an extension of the rental period with Mark Llewellyn’s

permission;

(e) Text message from the applicant to me and John MacGowan on 3 January 2023

requesting accommodation with a jacuzzi;

(f) Text message from Bruce Lehrmann on 19 March 2023 asking for another extension

of the rental period for the Randwick accommodation with Mark Llewellyn’s

permission;

(g) Receipt for Randwick accommodation for the applicant covering period of 17 March

17 to 24 March 2023 – $3622.50;

(h) Receipt for Randwick accommodation for the applicant covering period of 3 March to

17 March 2023 – $8115.80;

(i) Receipt for a meal at Franca restaurant, Potts Point for meal with the applicant on 5

January 5 2023 – $517.97;

(j) Receipts and approval for a meal at the Spice Temple, Sydney with the applicant and

John MacGowan on 6 January 2023 – $450.45;

(k) Receipt for a meal at the Bridport Hotel, Tasmania with the applicant, John MacGowan

and Mark Llewellyn on 18 December 2022 – $259.00;

(l) Photograph of an email from Seven’s corporate travel company, Stage and Screen,

regarding the applicant’s and John MacGowan’s flights from Sydney to Hobart on 9

January 2023;

(m) Receipt for Sensai Thai Massage on 26 November 2022 with the applicant and John

MacGowan – approximately $10,315; and

(n) Taxi for the applicant from Franca to Meriton Sydney for an after-dinner meeting on 5

January 2023.

Further, Auerbach said: “I recall that monies paid by the applicant for illicit drugs and prostitutes that evening at the Meriton and the following evening at a brothel in Surry Hills were reimbursed to the applicant by Seven through ‘per diems’ via invoice emailed to Ms

Louise Aquilina, Spotlight Unit Manager, in the days after the applicant’s departure from

Sydney in early January. I no longer have a copy of this invoice.”

Photocopy claims

During a dinner with the applicant and Mr Llewellyn at Spice Temple on 14 March, 2023, it is alleged the Spotlight EP said to Mr Lehrmann “Do you have the documents from the criminal proceedings?”. The applicant allegedly said, “Yes I do.”

“Mark and I discussed what arrangements would have to be made for the applicant to gain access to Seven’s offices in Martin Place so he could copy his documents. I recall that we debated whether the applicant should sign in or use one of our passes,” Auerbach’s affidavit states.

“(Bruce Lehrmann) then accompanied Mark Llewellyn and I to Seven’s Martin Place offices.

“I observed that (Bruce Lehrmann) had in his possession a large lever arch hard back folder containing what I saw to be around 500 pages of documents printed on both sides.

“I viewed some of the documents that were being copied and could see that they were exhibits from the applicant’s criminal proceedings.

“I saw by way of example Ms Higgins’ text messages. While the applicant was copying the documents, we were seen by Seven newsreader Angela Cox. She said to me: ‘Looks like you’ve got a big story coming.”

“The applicant did not provide me with the copy of the documents that he made but said to me on a number of occasions that evening ‘you will get this copy when you sign me – get Mark to sign the paperwork’.”

In a statement released at 10.44pm on Tuesday night a Seven Network spokesperson said the network strongly rejected “the false and misleading claims relating to the broadcast of material in the Spotlight program”.

“Seven has never revealed its source or sources and has no intention of doing so,’’ the spokesperson said.

“Seven notes Mr Lehrmann’s court testimony last year that he was not the source.

“Furthermore, Seven did not condone or authorise the alleged payments to Mr Lehrmann referred to in the affidavits.

“As has been previously reported, the person involved admitted to the misuse of a Seven corporate card and all unauthorised expenses were immediately reimbursed. Seven notes that these proceedings remain before the court.”