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More friends and family of Christian Porter accuser back calls for rape allegation inquiry

Paul Karp, Christopher Knaus and Katharine Murphy
·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP</span>
Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

Scott Morrison faces a growing clamour for an independent investigation into the contested rape allegation against Christian Porter, as the attorney general acknowledged he may have had contact with the woman after 1988.

Hours after the prime minister had rejected the need for an arm’s-length probe on the basis that would offend the rule of law, the family of the woman who alleged Porter assaulted her when they were teenagers backed “any inquiry” that would shed light on the circumstances “surrounding” her death in June 2020.

As friends rallied, urging Morrison to change his mind about an independent probe, and pledging cooperation with any credible process – a close friend of the now deceased woman, who accompanied her to make a statement to the New South Wales police in 2020, told Guardian Australia Porter had dined with her friend after 1988.

The woman, who has declined to be identified, put the timing of the catch up “in the 1990s”.

On Wednesday Porter – who categorically denies the woman’s allegation of rape – said that he only knew the woman for “the briefest periods at debating competitions when we were teenagers”. The attorney general twice suggested he had not seen the alleged victim since 1988 “to the best of my recollection”.

Related: Scott Morrison must call an independent inquiry into the Christian Porter rape allegation. It’s the only valid course | Katharine Murphy

In a statement recording her recollections of the events of 1988 and her subsequent contacts with Porter – a statement circulated to Scott Morrison and other parliamentarians and reported by Guardian Australia on Monday – the now deceased woman said she had dinner with Porter in Perth in 1994.

A spokesperson for Porter said the attorney general had not been definitive on Wednesday, providing only his best recollection. “If there is some information that there was some form of contact in the early 1990s, that is not impossible and it’s not a case of disputing that possibility.”

The spokesperson added: “But the attorney general does not recollect any specific contact since 1988 in that period over three decades ago.”

In addition to calls across the political divide for the prime minister to intervene, more friends of Porter’s dead accuser told Guardian Australia they support an investigation – including Labor MP Daniel Mulino, comedic actor Francis Greenslade, and former debating coach Anthony Durkin.

Morrison and senior Liberals have rejected the suggestion of an independent inquiry, citing the attorney general’s emphatic denials when he came forward on Wednesday identifying himself as the cabinet minister at the centre of the controversy.

But the deceased woman’s family, in a statement issued through lawyers, undercut that positioning. “They are supportive of any inquiry which would shed light on the circumstances surrounding the deceased passing,” they said in a statement through Douglas Hoskins Legal. “They ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult time.”

NSW police have said there is “insufficient admissible evidence” to continue their investigation, but the South Australian coroner has directed police in that state, where the woman died, to conduct further investigations before he decides whether to hold an inquest.

Guardian Australia has established that in 2019 the woman contacted her teammates from the Australian schools debating team, revealing her account that Porter had sexually assaulted her in January 1988.

The incident allegedly occurred at the University of Sydney while Porter and the school team attended the university championships in preparation for the first world schools championships.

Mulino revealed on Thursday that he became aware of the complaint in December 2019 because he was a member of the 1987 Australian schools team with Porter, the woman and Matt Deeble.

“I was a friend of the complainant,” Mulino said. “I first became aware of the complainant’s allegation in December 2019.

“She indicated to me that she was determined to proceed with a formal complaint and I supported her in that decision. I ensured that the complainant was receiving appropriate support.”

On Thursday, senior Labor figures Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek warned an independent investigation would be needed to ensure the prime minister and Australians retain confidence in the attorney general, joining the Greens and independents including Zali Steggall.

Plibersek also left open the possibility of a parliamentary inquiry, telling ABC TV that while she would not engage in speculation “none of these options should be off the table at this stage” for what was a “serious and unusual case”.

Greenslade, speaking in a personal capacity, told Guardian Australia he was friends with the woman after selecting her for the South Australian debating team.

Related: An independent inquiry would give Christian Porter the opportunity to clear his name | Pauline Wright

He described her as “a kind, lovely and gentle human being who would not cause any harm to anyone”. “There needs to be an investigation.”

The then coach of the 1988 South Australian debating team, Anthony Durkin, now a barrister, also lent his support to an inquiry.

Durkin said he had seen nothing to confirm whether the alleged rape happened during the Sydney debating event. He had not seen them alone together, he said, or heard anything to suggest there had been an incident between them.

But he also made it clear that he supported an inquiry and that the alleged victim did not seem “a fabulist”.

“Christian seemed like a nice boy to me,” he said. “At the same time, there’s nothing about [name removed] that makes me in retrospect think she’s a fabulist. That she would invent anything like that.”

“She was straight up and down. She was a debater from [school name removed].”

Mulino said he was “greatly saddened by the death of my friend”.

“I know that this has been a devastating period for the woman’s family and close friends. My thoughts are with them.

“I have conveyed to the Australian federal police, the NSW police force and the South Australian police an offer to assist with any investigations.”

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. International helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org.