Twist in Bruce Lehrmann, Taylor Auerbach, Sensai Thai Massage saga

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An eyewitness has emerged who claims he attended Taylor Auerbach’s Elizabeth Bay home on the night two Thai masseuses were called to the property. The eyewitness claims that Bruce Lehrmann was last seen disappearing into a room with one of the women.

The emergence of the third man appears to be in conflict with Mr Lehrmann’s claim that the details of the night were “bizarre” and “not true”. Mr Lehrmann denies getting a massage.

The man, who is not involved in the court proceedings, has told The Sydney Morning Herald that he recalled the trio arriving at Auerbach’s harbourside apartment in the early hours of Saturday, November 26, 2022.

“The last thing I saw when I left [early in the morning] was Bruce and a woman going into a room with literally nothing in it but a piano. It was so surreal, it was like something from a David Lynch film,” he said.

News.com.au understands that Uber receipts suggest the third man left at 3:19am November 26, 2022 and the masseuses were called around 1am. The group had earlier dined in Paddington on the Friday night.

News.com.au has obtained a photo of the piano in the apartment which shows an imposing red velvet seat and a vintage baby grand piano.

The three men had enjoyed a dinner at Cipri restaurant in Paddington with Spotlight executive producer Mark Llewellyn before Mr Llewellyn left the group and went home.

At the time, Seven was trying to get Mr Lehrmann to sign on the dotted line for an exclusive interview.

News.com.au broke the story on March 21 that two Thai masseuses were called and the incident prompted attempts by the Spotlight team to reverse the transaction when the employee owned up to using the credit card to pay for the masseuse.

Mr Lehrmann then told The Australian the story was “bizarre” and “untrue”.

“It’s an untrue and bizarre story from a disgruntled ex-­Network Seven producer,” he said. “Network Seven have only ever covered reasonable travel for filming and accommodation.”

That prompted Auerbach to engage high profile lawyer Rebekah Giles. The information he disclosed about his dealings, prompted Network Ten to successfully apply to reopen the case based on the “fresh evidence” and Auerbach will be called to give evidence today.

Spotlight producer Steve Jackson, who was not present on the night and did not authorise or have any knowledge of the use of the credit card, then suggested the employee ask the Thai masseuse to reverse the transactions the next day and “pay cash instead” to remove the transaction from the credit card in keeping with the network’s expense policies.

Mr Jackson suggested to the employee at the time the masseuse be paid “a bonus” of $250 to facilitate the different payment method.

During the text exchange, Mr Jackson provided the Seven employee with a Google translation of how to tell the worker in Thai: “I pay you cash instead.”

Taylor Auerbach’s big payout from Seven

Earlier, it emerged Mr Auerbach received a six-figure settlement when he left his job after lodging a complaint that Seven settled on a “no admissions” basis.

News.com.au has confirmed the payout was around $150,000 which was close to one year’s salary for him at the time, according to colleagues.

Bruce Lehrmann’s legal team has subpoenaed Mr Auerbach’s confidential records in relation to the matter, but Seven insiders fear it could unleash a new “Pandora’s box” of horrors for the broadcaster.

Seven Network executives are believed to be holding crisis meetings that insiders claim could involve discussions over the future of Spotlight, following allegations that Mr Auerbach wooed Mr Lehrmann with wining, dining and a brothel visit to secure the exclusive interview.

Seven is also set to reveal in court today whether or not per diems – daily allowances – were paid to Mr Lehrmann.

Mr Auerbach claims in his affidavit that after spending time at the Meriton and at a brothel with Mr Lehrmann, he made inquiries about being paid per diems.

However, according to his affidavit, he only had a memory of this and did not have receipts.

But the confidential payout deal has sent executives scurrying to find records to respond to the subpoena.

When a company offers a payout for an employee on a “no admissions basis” it means it does so without admitting any of the claims are true, and the complainant agrees not to take further legal action to settle the matter.

The payout followed Mr Auerbach’s complaint that he received a psychiatric injury while working at Spotlight, and his decision to spend $10,000 on a corporate credit card on Thai masseuses.

He immediately confessed to the expenditure and apologised, admitting he was in a “drunken daze”. Mr Auerbach has flatly rejected Seven’s claim that he ever received a written warning over the incident.

Psychiatric records

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister, Matthew Richardson SC, honed in on the circumstances of Mr Auerbach’s departure during Tuesday’s hearing, in which Justice Michael Lee ruled he would reopen the case based on “fresh evidence”.

“I won’t be overly dramatic. I know that Your Honour would never tolerate any sort of substantial delay, but this is a brand new witness,’’ he said.

“We need to subpoena Channel 7. We need to find out what happened when he left there.”

Mr Richardson said there was evidence to the effect Mr Auerbach had a medical issue.

“A psychiatric injury, which led to his termination or separation from Channel 7 and, speaking frankly, multiple journalists, including I assume some of the back of the court, have described his appearances in public as bizarre,’’ he said.

“That is a word that has been used frequently. We want to have a look at this and check if he does have a psychiatric condition and check more about this person.”

Text messages, sex workers and a two-day bender

Mr Auerbach claims Mr Lehrmann leaked Brittany Higgins’ personal text messages to Spotlight after the producer and Mr Lehrmann went on a two-night bender that included partying with sex workers.

The untested claims are contained in an affidavit that was tendered to the Federal Court during the hearing presided over by Justice Lee on Tuesday night.

The claims involve two nights in January, 2023, after Auerbach spent $10,000 on Thai massages in November, 2022, without the knowledge or consent of the Seven Network, on a corporate credit card.

The material is untested and Mr Auerbach will be cross examined on Thursday after Justice Lee announced Network Ten had won its bid to reopen the case.