NSW police top brass blocked a request by sex crimes detectives to travel to Adelaide to interview the woman who alleged she was raped by former Attorney-General Christian Porter during the COVID-19 border closures.
The new revelations are contained in a 69-page dossier of documents produced after a demand from NSW Parliament that also reveal for the first time that police emailed the woman for a welfare check and about making a statement following multiple delays – just two days before she died by suicide.
Mr Porter rejects the 1988 rape allegation as completely false and has commenced defamation action against the ABC over the original report of the matter.
Previously, it was known the woman told police on June 23 she did not want to proceed for “health and personal reasons” with a complaint but it was not known that NSW police contacted her on June 22. She died by suicide on June 24, 2020.
Despite a warning that Mr Porter was “a very high profile POI (person of interest) and a detailed statement is required” and confirmation the travel request was approved by the NSW Police Sex Crimes squad commander, it was ultimately knocked back three days later on March 13, 2020, by NSW deputy police commissioner Dave Hudson.
“Insufficient detail provided by SCC to justify why this travel cannot be deferred in accordance with Commissioners Direction and Government Policy precluding international travel and restricting interstate travel to operational necessity”.
“Investigators will revisit options as to the best course of action in arranging for the statement to be obtained,’’ Deputy Commissioner Hudson notes in a handwritten note.
The woman ultimately died by suicide just three months later on June 24, 2020. Her death came just hours after she told police she no longer wanted to proceed with a formal statement.
The documents also reveal for the first time that two days before her death NSW police contacted her by email at home in Adelaide. She was home alone in quarantine after travelling to Melbourne.
“At 17:28 on Monday 22/06/2020, DSC sent an email to seek her availability for a follow up phone call in the coming days (victim welfare check and travel status,’’ the documents state.
What happened next is redacted, with several blacked out pages in the documents providing that do not detail her reported decision not to proceed with a formal statement. She died on June 24.
The revelations that the top brass in NSW police refused a travel request by detectives during the COVID-19 pandemic follow confirmation that police were never able to formally interview Mr Porter because they never took a statement from the woman.
Greens MP David Shoebridge told news.com.au it was hard to understand why the travel request was refused particularly given it was such a high profile matter.
“Despite support from three senior police in the sex crime squad and from the head of the State Crime Command the travel request was denied by a Deputy Police Commissioner,’’ he said.
“This decision is deeply troubling because I can’t image something more important or essential for the NSW Police than investigating an alleged sexual assault.
“Disturbingly, once South Australian police agreed to take the statement, NSW Police shut this option down without ever referring back to the complainant.”
But the documents make clear NSW police tried for many months to do so and that the woman was keen to make a statement.
According to the documents, the NSW police Detective senior constable from the child abuse and sex crimes squad sought approval from her superiors to travel to Adelaide on March 10, 2020. This was the same day that new prohibitions on interstate travel came into force.
The documents provided make it clear that the detectives investigating the case and their superiors strongly supported the request to travel to Adelaide to take a statement from the woman.
In a supporting background document, the NSW police Detective notes that ‘CP’ a reference to Christian Porter
“A statement is required to commence the investigation,’’ the correspondence states.
“In March 2020, the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad established Strikeforce Wyndarra to investigate (alleged) historical sexual assault offences committed upon (REDACTED) by ‘CP* in January 1988 in Redfem NSW.
“’CP’ has a significant media profile within the Australian community.”
The document notes the allegations were originally reported to the South Australia Police in November 2019.
At the time, it states the complainant was not in a position to provide a statement in relation to the matter but that South Australia Police advised the NSW Police Child Abuse & Sex Crimes Squad of the report at the time.
In February 2020, the woman contacted South Australia Police advising she was prepared to provide a statement in relation to the matter who in turn advised NSW Police.
On Thursday 27 February 2020 police met with the woman at “short notice” as she was meeting with her lawyers in respect to possible civil proceedings relating to this matter.
During this meeting she was provided the opportunity to return to Sydney at a later date to complete the statement or have investigators travel to South Australia to complete the statement.
“I am advised she would prefer investigators travel to South Australia so she could have a support person available whilst making her statement.”
The cost of the travel to Adelaide by the two police detectives was estimated at $4,000. The recommendation, supported by the team Leader, “Investigation Teams, Child Abuse & Sex Crimes Squad” was “that favourable consideration is given to this application.”
In a hand written note on the documents dated March 10, 2020, Detective Chief Inspector Mick Haddow also notes “Supported. This matter involves a very high profile POI (person of interest) and a detailed statement is required. There are circumstances relating to this victim that in my view requires 2X investigators present.”
The commander of the child abuse and sex crimes squad John Kerlatec also notes in handwritten comments: “Request for interstate operational travel supported. Recommend approval.”
But in a handwritten note at the bottom of the page the Deputy Police Commissioner denies the request questioning lack of detail to meet the operational necessity requirements.
The documents produced also include the handwritten NSW police duty book of the investigating officer that details her attempts to contact the woman after the travel request was denied.
On April 2, an email between members of the Sex Crime squad notes “Victim statement – our position at this stage is to hold off from commencing the statement.
“We will reassess this position in one months’ time and if the current restrictions as a result of COVlD-19 are still in place then we will look at alternatives,’’ it states.”
Then, on April 26, police said they had spoken to the Adelaide woman and she was “resigned” to the disruptions COVID had caused to her statement being taken by NSW police.
“She’s currently doing well, but has basically resigned to the fact that it might be September-ish before things return to ‘normal’. Given this apparent change in urgency, I asked if she is happy to hold off and reassess again in another 4 weeks. She is happy with that arrangement.
“With regard to SAPOL, I assume we haven’t heard back from Perry yet but I still think It would still be good to ascertain her willingness to assist. It’s possible that (she) could change her mind in the interim, and in all honesty, who really knows when the travel restrictions will be lifted.”
On April 30, NSW police wrote to SA police about the possibility they might interview the Adelaide woman.
“While she was initially very keen to commence her statement as soon as possible, she is now quite understanding of the current travel restrictions and
is now happy to wait until these are eased and we are able to travel to SA again to obtain her statement,’’ the correspondence states.
“On receipt of your email, I discussed the matter with D/Sgt Beacroft, and confirmed that we are happy to continue
with the original plan for us to obtain a statement once we can.”
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has previously revealed he held a “high-level” discussion with his deputy before the complainant took her own life.
“I made no contact personally with anyone outside of the organisation in relation to it,” Commissioner Fuller told the hearing.
“I had a high-level discussion about it with Deputy Commissioner David Hudson but at that stage the lady was unsure in terms of what action she wanted.”
But he said the investigation was not discussed outside of the NSW Police and the Prime Minister’s office or other senior politicians were not tipped off.
“Absolutely from my perspective 100 per cent zero contact,” Mr Fuller replied.
“And I did not instruct anyone to make any contact with anyone in NSW or Australian politics.”
The woman took her own life in June, the day after she told detectives that she did not wish to proceed with making a formal statement.
Mr Fuller said a decision was then made to close the investigation.