Bruce Lehrmann was in a mental health clinic, having been accused of rape days earlier, when his mentor and long-time family friend gave him a pep talk: ‘Stop telling yourself you can’t handle this.’
The WhatsApp message was sent by network marketer Lyndon Biernoff on February 21, 2021 – six days after Brittany Higgins appeared on The Project and alleged she was raped in Parliament House by a ‘male colleague’.
Mr Lehrmann was not named in the broadcast but he knew that he was the alleged rapist because a journalist contacted his former employer, British American Tobacco, asking him to comment on the allegation.
He has continually maintained his innocence and is now suing Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson for defamation over that broadcast, claiming former colleagues were able to identify him as the alleged perpetrator.
The messages between Mr Lehrmann and Mr Biernoff, from Toowoomba, were tendered in the Federal Court during the second week of the hearing in early December.
This week, Mr Biernoff himself sat in the court’s public gallery for the final two days of evidence, telling Daily Mail Australia, ‘I thought it was important to show my support’.
Lyndon Biernoff is pictured outside the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday
‘I couldn’t be here for the whole thing, but I’ve known his mother for a long time and I support him,’ he said.
According to their WhatsApp messages, it appears that Mr Biernoff did more than just support Mr Lehrmann – within those first few days after the broadcast, he was always on the other end of the phone.
On February 16, the day after the program went to air, Mr Biernoff sent a text saying he was going to drive Mr Lehrman’s elderly mother to the airport so she could fly from Queensland to Sydney to be with him.
At the time, Mr Lehrmann had checked himself into a mental health ward.
‘Stay strong, you will get through this,’ Mr Biernoff said.
‘I can easily see that you’re being set up, set up because of dirty politics. I would just get yourself well and in the right frame of mind and outsmart them. There is no evidence, it’s an unsubstantiated accusation.
‘I’m sure some in the media can already see what the ulterior motive may be and that fact that someone’s reputation is on the line – you will come out on top if you get your mind focused on the right moves.’
He sent another later that evening saying: ‘Fight hard, fight clever, hold your nerve, you’ve got a big future ahead of you’.
Brittany Higgins is pictured outside the Federal Court in Sydney on December 1
A mock-up of WhatsApp messages between Bruce Lehrmann and Lyndon Biernoff is pictured
Mr Biernoff continued to check in on Mr Lehrmann throughout the week, keeping him informed about the latest developments in Ms Higgins’ allegations and asking how conversations with lawyers were going.
Every time he felt down, or even hinted at how low he was feeling, Mr Biernoff would send him words of encouragement and support – even when two more women, who were not named in media reports, also accused Mr Lehrmann of rape.
On February 21, Mr Biernoff messaged him with a news article with the headline: ‘A third woman has come forward claiming rape by the same man as Brittany five years ago’.
Mr Lehrmann said: ‘I don’t know if I can get through this.’
By that stage, he had moved on from a hospital ward and was staying in a private mental health clinic.
Mr Biernoff said: ‘You have to get past feeling sorry for yourself and find the courage to overcome.’
‘This is now an easy thing to overcome if you follow the obvious steps with all the intelligence, voice and street smarts you have.’
”Woe is me’ can just leave the building. Stop telling yourself you can’t handle this ’cause it’s a lie. No time for bad days or pity parties.’
Lyndon Biernoff offered unwavering support to Bruce Lehrmann (a mock-up of the messages is pictured)
Mr Lehrmann said: ‘I know, just hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.’
Mr Biernoff replied: ‘It may feel like that early last week but not today – the light at the end of the tunnel is blinding.’
Mr Lehrmann said: ‘I hope so.’
Mr Biernoff replied: ‘I know so.’
He urged the former staffer to ‘stop playing the victim’ and to speak out about the allegations against him – encouraging him to control the narrative.
On February 23, he said: ‘You will stay the punching bag until you change the course of the media.’
‘Yeah I know,’ Mr Lehrmann said.
Aside from a police interview in April 2021 that he voluntarily participated in, Mr Lehrmann did stay silent about the allegations until earlier this year when he appeared on Network Seven’s Spotlight program.
Last year, after his criminal trial collapsed, Mr Lehrmann stayed at a winery in Huon, Tasmania – opposite a sprawling property owned by Mr Biernoff.
Mr Biernoff will not appear in court for the final days of the defamation trial because he has to be in Tasmania, but he plans to continue to support Mr Lehrmann from afar.
Closing submissions in his defamation trial will be heard on Thursday and Friday.