Friends of the woman who made a historical accusation of rape against a current Cabinet Minister have spoken up to urge Prime Minister Scott Morrison to hold an inquiry into the allegation.

Key points:

  • Five friends of the now-deceased woman who made a historical accusation of rape against a current Cabinet Minister have urged the PM to take action
  • They describe her as “smart” “forthright” and an “extraordinary” human being who they thought would achieve great things
  • A friend who was with the woman on the night of the alleged rape has offered to make a statement to police

The woman, who took her own life in June last year, travelled in circles of highly accomplished people, many of whom went on to be leaders in their chosen fields.

Her friends have told Four Corners she was someone whose intellect and vitality as a teenager far eclipsed the rest of them.

“[Many of our friends] have gone on to fairly prominent and successful careers around the place, in politics or media or banking and various things … but [she] was always the best of them,” said her old friend Nick Ryan, a wine writer.

“Take me back to 1988 … to place a bet on which horse in this race is really going to go and succeed — my money would have been on [her].”

Another friend, Jo Dyer, who is now a literary festival director, knew the woman since they were 15.

“She had such charisma and we all imagined that her life would be one of skyrocketing success, of achievement,” said Ms Dyer.

“[In our circle], there were many stars shining in the firmament, but [she] really shone the brightest, or certainly one of the brightest.”

Jeremy Samuel, an entrepreneur and former Liberal candidate, knew the woman for many years.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that we’re dealing with a really wonderful and special person, whose life went off the rails, and that’s extremely sad,” he said.

Many of those who knew her have told Four Corners that everyone assumed when she was growing up that she would be Australia’s first female prime minister.

“She was a star, really,” Ms Dyer said.

“She was a girl with sharp intelligence, rigorous intellect, she was warm, she had a compelling eloquence.”

Jeremy Samuel, who has has twice stood for Liberal preselection, is urging the Prime Minister to commission an independent investigation into the allegation.(Supplied: Four Corners)

The woman last year alleged that in 1988, when she was 16, she was raped by the man who is now a Cabinet Minister, long before he entered politics.

In February 2020, she reported the alleged rape to NSW Police.

As Four Corners revealed on Friday, last week another of the woman’s close friends wrote anonymously to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urging him to set up an independent investigation into the woman’s claims, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations of sexual harassment against former Justice Dyson Heydon.

Friend with the woman on the night of alleged rape offers to make police statement

NSW Police set up a task force to manage the highly sensitive allegation — codenamed Strike Force Wyndarra — but their plan to travel to Adelaide to take a formal statement from the complainant was stymied when COVID-19 broke out in Australia in March 2020.

Her friend Matthew Deeble has contacted NSW Police to offer a statement in the case. He was with the woman and the man named in the anonymous letter earlier on the night that she alleges the rape took place.

Mr Deeble, a non-profit executive, was supporting her through the process.

Matthew Deeble says he is willing to make a statement to police.(Four Corners)

“She knew what she was going to be putting herself through by coming forward, with nothing to gain as a result of doing this,” he said.

“She was on a path to give her statement to the NSW Police, who were going to travel to South Australia to be with her and take that statement and move the matter forward.

“COVID restrictions stopped that occurring. And I know she was under enormous stress and distress because of those delays.”

Her mental health deteriorated before she took her life in June. In the days beforehand, she informed NSW Police that she did not want the investigation to proceed.

“It’s heartbreaking, it really is,” Ms Dyer said.

Some of the woman’s friends who have spoken up are lifelong Liberal voters.

Friends close to woman urge Prime Minister to commission investigation

Jeremy Samuel has twice stood for Liberal preselection and is well-connected in the party.

“I strongly urge the Prime Minister to commission an independent investigation into the allegations about the Cabinet Minister made by my late friend,” Mr Samuel told Four Corners.

He has seen the woman’s statement and spoke to her at length about her allegation in the year before her death.

A former school friend, Mel, now a social worker, who did not want to use her surname, told Four Corners the complainant had stayed at her home in December 2019.

“While she was there, she worked on the statement for her lawyers,” Mel said.

“I have known her since she and I met at school when we were 15.

“She was an extraordinary human being.

“Please, Prime Minister, investigate these claims.”

The rape alleged by Brittany Higgins and others against a former staffer to Senator Reynolds remind us of the need to do more to protect women,” the letter revealed on Friday said.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would feel like wilful blindness.”

The letter was also addressed to Labor’s leader in the Senate Penny Wong and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young. It urged them to work together to find a solution that did not unfairly prejudice the Cabinet Minister.

It said that this was not a “partisan issue” and there were alleged rapists and rape victims “in all parties”.

The woman who made the allegation against the Cabinet Minister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffered from eating disorders.

She had previously attempted suicide and was admitted into psychiatric care in 2019.

She first disclosed the alleged rape in 2018, to a close male friend.

The following year, she began to contact other friends, some of whom she hadn’t seen for some years.

“(It) really seemed completely consuming and completely debilitating to her,” Ms Dyer said.

“She was consumed with a trauma which she told me, deeply and consistently, was as a result of an assault that had [allegedly] occurred, early in 1988, and her life at that point was really devoted to exploring how she could get some kind of … peace from that.”

Danny Kennedy, who was also with the woman on the night of the alleged incident when they were teenagers and is now managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund, said his friend was a “very smart, forthright woman”.

“I think it’s right to ask hard questions of a culture that is far too often complacent, and you know, in our silence we risk letting violence carry on.”

Mr Ryan said when he discovered the woman had taken her life he was filled with “just utter sadness”.

“That sense that yeah, it’s such a waste,” Mr Ryan said.

“That this beautiful, clever young woman with so much potential has a life squandered and a life ended far too early.”

South Australia Police are investigating the broader circumstances of the woman’s death, including her mental health care, for the state’s coroner.

Senators Hanson-Young and Wong have referred the letter to Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw.

On Monday, the Prime Minister said he became aware of the allegation on Wednesday evening last week and spoke to both the Minister and the Australian Federal Police Commissioner about it that night.

“The police have had this matter referred to them, the individual involved here has vigorously rejected these allegations,” he said.

“And so it’s a matter for the police, and in my discussions with the Commissioner, there were nothing immediate that he considered that was necessary for me to take any action on.”