Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Rachel MacGregor on Colin Craig - in her own words

Rachel MacGregor arrives at the Auckland High Court to testify in the Jordan Williams defamation case against Colin Craig. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Rachel MacGregor arrives at the Auckland High Court to testify in the Jordan Williams defamation case against Colin Craig. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Rachel MacGregor has told a court that her former employer Colin Craig kissed her and touched her breast on election night in 2011, after putting pressure on her to stay overnight in an apartment at the Conservative Party office.

MacGregor also said in evidence yesterday that she rang Craig's wife, Helen, to tell her about the election night kiss and offered to meet her in a cafe to show her the letters Craig had written to her.

THE DEFAMATION TRIAL - WHY MACGREGOR IS IN COURT

Craig is on trial for allegedly defaming Taxpayers' Union director Jordan Williams, a friend of MacGregor's to whom she turned after her high-profile shock resignation shortly before the 2014 General Election.

Williams said he was "horrified" at MacGregor's claims Craig had allegedly sexually harassed her, and after seeing letters and poems the politician sent her, revealed all to other Conservative Party members.

When Craig found out he publicly claimed Williams was part of a group of "culprits" determined to have him removed as party leader through a "campaign" of "false accusations".

At a press conference and in a pamphlet sent to more than 1.6 million households across the country it was stated that Williams was a liar and had "spread false accusations".

Williams then filed defamation proceedings in the High Court, saying he did not lie about Craig.

MacGregor is giving evidence in support of Williams' allegation. It is the first time she has spoken at length about her resignation, her relationship with Craig and her allegation that he sexually harassed her.

The trial is in its second week before Judge Sarah Katz and a jury.

Craig is expected to give evidence later in the trial. Last week the jury heard two days of evidence from Williams.

Rachel MacGregor and Colin Craig. Photo / Supplied
Rachel MacGregor and Colin Craig. Photo / Supplied

Today MacGregor, giving evidence against the former politician at his defamation hearing in the High Court at Auckland, finally shared her story.

Her personal life - including relationships, finances and health - was discussed at length last week in court. But today the jury heard from the woman behind the so-called scandal.

THE ALLEGED PAY DISPUTE

Craig hired MacGregor as his press secretary in August 2011. In the lead-up to the 2014 General Election she spoke to Craig about a pay rise - she was doing longer hours and much more work and felt that she deserved to be paid a higher rate.

She told the court that Craig wrote her a note stating she would be paid more during the election period, however, they never agreed on a specific amount or period it would apply to.

"Mr Craig repeatedly refused to discuss the matter further so that it could be finalised and settled. I did not submit an invoice for my work from the 2nd of June 2014 because I needed us to resolve our hourly rate and I needed us to agree at what date the new rate applied from before I could submit invoices for the correct amount," she told the jury this morning.

"I was therefore in a situation where Mr Craig was unwilling to settle on what the higher rate for the election period would be and precisely when this higher rate would apply from. Because I was unable to invoice Mr Craig and was therefore getting into deeper and deeper financial difficulty, Mr Craig paid me two advances of $10,000 ... Apart from these advances I received no payment for any work from the beginning of June 2014 until my employment ended in September 2014. I tried to bring the matter up with Mr Craig on a number of occasions but Mr Craig repeatedly refused to talk about my pay rate.

"As the election campaign went on I became increasingly anxious that he would not pay me. I had also begun to consider filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over Mr Craig's sexual harassment of me. This sexual harassment had occurred over a long period of time."

MacGregor had told her then-boyfriend about the alleged harassment and he was encouraging her to make a complaint, however she was reluctant to do so while she was still working for Craig and while she was still awaiting payment.

MacGregor arrives at the Auckland High Court to testify. Photo / Brett Phibbs
MacGregor arrives at the Auckland High Court to testify. Photo / Brett Phibbs

THE RESIGNATION

Things all came to a head, she says, on September 18, 2014. MacGregor and Craig were in his car travelling from the North Shore to central Auckland so the politician could participate in media interviews.

MacGregor got in the car with her boss and started chatting to him.

"We initially engaged in small talk and I asked Mr Craig how he had slept the night before.

Mr Craig said something to the effect of that he had slept well the night before because he had imagined he was lying on my legs.

"I felt angry when he said this. It made me feel uncomfortable and upset. It was not the first time he had told me about dreaming or imagining himself asleep on my legs and I had told him only two days earlier to stop saying this to me as it made me feel very uncomfortable."

She then told him she wanted to discuss her pay but he said "now is not the time".

"I was conscious the election campaign would be over in two days and that any incentive for Mr Craig to finally confirm what a reasonable hourly rate would be may be lost," she said in court.

"I feared that if the election result was not as good for Mr Craig as he had hoped, he may have used this to try and argue that he should pay me less. We argued some more and in the end I said to him that if he was not willing to discuss my pay I was leaving. What I meant was I was prepared to resign.

"Mr Craig would not even begin to discuss my pay and so I told him I was leaving. I got out of the car. I did not accompany Mr Craig to his radio interview. I immediately got into my boyfriend's car and I told my boyfriend that I had resigned."

It did not take long for news to break that MacGregor had left Craig's camp.

"Later in the morning Newstalk ZB's political editor, Barry Soper, called. Mr Soper asked me what was going on. I told him I had resigned. He wanted to know why I had resigned. I became upset. I told Mr Soper I had nothing to say.

"After repeated questions I told him Mr Craig was a manipulative man but I told him that's all I would say. I did not talk to any other reporters about my resignation."

Just hours later MacGregor filed a sexual harassment case against Craig with the Human Rights Commission.

In January, MacGregor's lawyers sent an email to Craig advising him of the complaint.

"My lawyers explained to Mr Craig that his behaviour to me had been extremely unwelcome and offensive and that his harassment had a detrimental effect on my job, on my health, on my well being and on my relationships.

Colin Craig, right, arrives at the Auckland High Court. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Colin Craig, right, arrives at the Auckland High Court. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"Attached to the letter were copies of letters and a card which Mr Craig had sent to me and which my lawyers and I believed were evidence of his harassment of me."

Some of those letters and cards were revealed in court last week.

MacGregor told the court that from the outset she never wanted her issues with Craig to
go public.

"As press secretary, I had many contacts in the media and I understood how the media works. If I had ever wanted to be the subject of public attention I could have called one of my media contacts and offered an exclusive interview about Mr Craig and his behaviour towards me. Although I have been contacted by a wide range of media organisations including with an offer to buy my story, I have never considered doing that.

"From the outset I only wanted to be paid the money I was owed by Mr Craig. I wanted to clear the debt I owed him and I wanted recognition from him that his behaviour towards me had been wrong, unlawful, deeply immoral and harmful to me. I wanted to resolve these things and to get on with my life," MacGregor said.

THE MEDIATION

MacGregor and Craig attended a mediation facilitated by the Human Rights Commission on May 4, 2015.

At the end of a day-long hearing they reached a settlement and agreed to keep the matter confidential.

"When I signed the mutual resolution I understood that under the settlement neither Mr Craig nor I could talk to any journalists or any other person about the issues discussed at the mediation, other than to say that we had met and resolved the differences between us," she explained.

"I was comfortable with signing these confidentiality agreements because I understood how much media interest there would be in my dispute with Mr Craig and I did not want to be the subject of media scrutiny or speculation. I was embarrassed to be in this position and I did not want people talking about me."

Both Craig and MacGregor signed a confidentiality agreement but that did not keep him from speaking about her and their situation in media interviews, including one where he appeared in a sauna with a TV3 reporter.

"I was alarmed when I saw the interview and very upset ... Mr Craig was in breach of our agreement and in any case what he was saying was completely untrue. I was so gutted.

"I was immediately worried about the effect Mr Craig's description of the circumstances surrounding my resignation would have on my reputation. What he said was completely untrue. "

The next day she says she emailed Craig and told him she believed he had breached the settlement agreement's confidentiality clauses.

"I asked Mr Craig to issue a retraction. I also asked for a written undertaking that he would not further breach the settlement agreement by making any further comments about my departure and I asked for an assurance that he would not discuss the circumstances relating to my resignation other than as agreed.

"Mr Craig responded ... He said he did not think that a retraction was necessary as it would only fuel media interest. He also said that he believed there were people wishing to make mischief."

She claims Craig then asked MacGregor if she had shown letters and poems he had sent her - which she claimed were proof of his harassment - to other people.

He claimed a third party had been passing the information on to other people.

Days later Craig stood down as Conservative Party leader and held a press conference at which he again spoke about MacGregor's departure.

"I could not believe that Mr Craig was continuing to talk about me and continuing to answer questions about the circumstances related to my resignation. I believed that, after we agreed to the 4th of May, 2015, settlement, Mr Craig would not talk about these things," MacGregor said in court.

"This media conference and the speculation and media interest that it generated has had a debilitating effect on me, on my health and on my life, both professionally and personally. It has affected almost every part of my well being. It has resulted in an intense and deeply unsettling invasion of my privacy which in turn has left me anxious, unwell and distrustful. At this media conference, Mr Craig again talked about his relationship with me. Mr Craig gave the impression that the dispute between us was just about money.

"Mr Craig talked about our conduct as being inappropriate ... I felt very distressed and
sick. This was my worst nightmare. My professionalism and my ethics and my personal life were all being talked about publicly. I really could not believe this was happening. I knew Mr Craig was not allowed to talk about the issues that we had settled at mediation. I was very upset because it seemed like he had no respect for the mediation or for the settlement.

"Mr Craig said he had been forced to respond to protect his reputation. My reputation was also being damaged and I did not respond. I was shocked and deeply upset. I was also very distressed that Mr Craig was claiming to get the story straight but he was only telling one side of the story and doing it in such a way as to damage my reputation. Mr Craig also said that he wanted the confidentiality of the settlement lifted so that he could answer more questions and speak more freely."

MacGregor said by talking about her at the conference Craig "gave everyone the impression that we had been in a sexual relationship. I wanted to make it clear that this had not happened".

She issued a short press release that night saying Craig had breached the confidentiality agreement and that she, still bound by that agreement, could not correct the factual inaccuracies.

"My future was sort of flashing before me. I was feeling very anxious and I really didn't know what to do. It seemed to me like no one really knew what to do. My lawyer didn't seem to know what to do either," she said in court.

"The suggestion that I was Mr Craig's mistress absolutely goes to the heart of what I don't want to be. I would be mortified, for me and my family, to hear that on the radio."

In June 2015, Craig issued a newsletter to Conservative Party members saying there was "no harassment and no sexual relationship" between him and MacGregor. He also referred to behaviour between the two as "inappropriate" and said he wanted the confidentiality agreement waived so he could speak more about the allegations.

Jordan Williams. Photo / via Facebook
Jordan Williams. Photo / via Facebook

WHAT MACGREGOR ALLEGEDLY TOLD JORDAN WILLIAMS

MacGregor and Jordan Williams were friends at the time of her resignation and she contacted him several weeks after to ask for his help and advice. A trained lawyer, she thought he would be able to guide her through a difficult process.

She maintains she did not tell Williams about the alleged sexual harassment until after she resigned.

Further, she has never discussed the mediation or agreement between her and Craig.

"The specific things I told Jordan included ... that Mr Craig had sexually harassed me over a long period of time, up until my resignation, and in 2014 stopped paying me because of the dispute I described above regarding my pay rate. I told Jordan that this dispute was in the context of me not reciprocating Mr Craig's romantic interest and that the sexual harassment continued up until my resignation.

"That Mr Craig's harassment started off as comments and shoulder touches but progressed and became more persistent, especially after an incident on the 2011 election night when Mr Craig pressured me to stay overnight in the apartment at the Conservative Party offices ... on that particular night Mr Craig had kissed me; touched me inappropriately; and that, after I expressed concern to my brother, he confronted Mr Craig. I told Jordan that Mr Craig had acknowledged to my brother that what he had done to me was wrong.

"I told Jordan ... How Mr Craig would get changed in front of me and wanted me to move into the apartment above his office. How Mr Craig had a curtain installed in my office that he would often close when we were there together. How I had felt trapped working for Mr Craig. I could not easily resign as I needed the money ... That Mr Craig took me on shopping trips and told me what he liked me to wear. That when travelling for work with Mr Craig, he had entered my hotel room uninvited, and without knocking. That I didn't want to stay in the same hotel as Mr Craig when travelling."

MacGregor says she showed Williams the letters and poems Craig sent her but did not give him copies, nor did she give permission for him to make copies.

"I wanted advice on whether I should go to the board of the Conservative Party to seek help in getting the money Mr Craig owed me," she said.

Some time later she started a romantic relationship with Williams and he allowed her to keep the Craig letters in the safe in his office to prevent them getting into the wrong hands.

"After the mediation, I began to get suspicious that Jordan may have taken copies of some of the correspondence I had left in the safe in his office," MacGregor told the jury.

"I sent Jordan an email asking him to return any copies of letters from Mr Craig. I asked him not to make any copies and I told him I did not want the letters used against Mr Craig."

When she found out Williams had shared the letters with other Conservative Party members - he says in a bid to warn them about Craig's alleged behaviour ahead of the election - she felt "very upset".

"I had not given him permission to take the letters. I had not given him permission to talk to anyone else about the letters, or about my sexual harassment claim. I had no knowledge that he had intended to talk to members of the Conservative Party board about my sexual harassment allegations," she explained.

"When I found out what he had done I was scared about what would happen next, and I felt very anxious and very betrayed. After speaking to Jordan though ... I could understand that he was trying to do what he believed was right.

"I did not confide in Jordan as part of any conspiracy to hurt Mr Craig or cause him public
embarrassment. I did not confide in Jordan with the expectation that he would betray my trust. I confided in Jordan because I knew he was a lawyer and someone who understood politics. I thought he would understand my situation and be able to provide good advice to me.

"My situation was complex, and there were very few people I knew I could go to for help and advice. Jordan was the only person that really helped me through this ... I knew that Jordan was angry with Mr Craig, once he learned of my claim, but I did not think he would betray my trust as he understood the harm it would do to me and to the political party we had both supported."

Colin Craig holds a booklet he has produced during a press conformance held at the Spencer Hotel. Photo / Dean Purcell
Colin Craig holds a booklet he has produced during a press conformance held at the Spencer Hotel. Photo / Dean Purcell

THE PERSONAL IMPACT

MacGregor told the court that Craig's alleged breaches of confidentiality had been "profoundly distressing" to her.

"They have damaged me physically, emotionally and financially. I was very upset when I resigned and it took me several months to re-establish myself in employment. During that time I sought medical advice and, for a period of months, was unable to work.

"Last year I moved from Auckland to Wellington. I found a new job as a public relations consultant, with Jordan's help. I genuinely felt like I had moved on and was successfully rebuilding my life. But from the moment Mr Craig breached the confidentiality of the settlement that all stopped.

"Since the 22nd of June, 2015, media conference when Mr Craig talked about our relationship I became a different person. Before then, I was outgoing and confident. I was able to make quick decisions and work efficiently and effectively. Afterwards, I felt tired all of the time. I lost a lot of confidence in myself and my own judgment. I became withdrawn and anxious. My doctor treated me for a number of stress-related complications.

"I woke up every day with a tight feeling in my chest and this feeling did not go away until I fell asleep at night. I felt always on edge. I was always fearful of what Mr Craig would do next, what he might say next."

She said Craig had spoken about her publicly as if she was "an immoral person".

"He has talked publicly about very private and sensitive things that he knows about me and which he only knows about me because of the mediation that we both agreed to - such as my romantic relationship with Jordan," she said.

"I am a Christian ... As a result of what Mr Craig has said and the way he has characterised our relationship I have been portrayed as somebody who has had an inappropriate relationship with a married man. The way he has characterised my sexual harassment claim and the settlement between us has been interpreted by my friends and even my family as implying that there was a consensual sexual relationship, which was not the case.

"It has led to speculation online and on talkback radio and even at my workplace that I was a willing participant. I feel very hurt and humiliated by this characterisation, which goes to the heart of the kind of person that I am."

She said as a professional woman it had been humiliating to have her financial issues discussed by Craig in the media.

"Mr Craig has made me out to be hopeless with money and he has disclosed that I borrowed money from him as a means of reorganising my credit card debt. It has been humiliating and distressing to have become a topic of public discussion."

ADDRESSING THE RECIPROCATION RUMOURS

MacGregor ended her evidence by responding to a list of things that had been said about her in the media and in court during the trial so far by Craig and others.

She started with the suggestion that she had "reciprocated" Craig's advances.

"Mr Craig has said that our relationship was mutually affectionate. I agree that, at least early on, there was mutual affection and we had a fun relationship. However, this mutual affection certainly did not amount to a sexual relationship or something that was romantic in any way," she said.

She said when he discussed "inappropriate" things with her she would object.

"A short time before I resigned, Mr Craig and I were travelling - I think to the airport - and he said something about dreaming about falling asleep on me. I remember saying something to the effect (of ) 'Colin, what do you think your wife would think if she knew you were saying this to me?' Like previously, Mr Craig downplayed my concerns. This annoyed me and really got under my skin."

The next time he mentioned dreaming about her, she says, she quit.

"I asked how he had slept. He said he had slept well because he was using what he called a 'sleep technique'. He explained to me that his technique was to imagine himself falling asleep, or lying, on my legs. This greatly annoyed me and, as best I can recall, I said, '[Colin] you cannot continue making those comments. We have been through this'.

"Mr Craig tried to turn it into a bit of a joke and said I was over-reacting. This really annoyed me, particularly given I had very recently had him up for exactly the same comment."

Colin Craig and his wife Helen in the lead up to a press conference announcing Mr Craig will be seeking compensation. Photo / Dean Purcell
Colin Craig and his wife Helen in the lead up to a press conference announcing Mr Craig will be seeking compensation. Photo / Dean Purcell

WHAT MACGREGOR ALLEGEDLY TOLD CRAIG'S WIFE

MacGregor revealed to the jury that before she resigned she went to Craig's wife Helen and revealed the 2011 election night kiss.

"Helen was silent on the other end of the phone for a few moments. She then said something which made me think she did not believe me. To the best of my recollection, I said to her words to the effect, 'Look, Helen, I'm not making this up. I have numerous letters that your husband has written to me'.

"I offered to meet with her at a cafe and show her the letters. She said that she would be in touch after she had time to think about it. I have not heard from her since."

THE CROSS EXAMINATION

Craig's lawyer Stephen Mills QC spent the afternoon cross-examining MacGregor about her time working for Craig and why she disclosed her allegation of sexual harassment against him to Williams.

She told a jury that she "really enjoyed" working for her former boss in the beginning but after the 2011 general election believed she was being sexually harassed.

Under cross examination MacGregor confirmed that the alleged harassment was not constant.

Rather, she said, it was "intermittent".

"We were really good friends, we got on really well," she said.

"I really admired him, I really respected him. I really enjoyed working with him it was really fun. We spent a lot of long hours together ... we became close."

She claimed the harassment started with "odd" things - Craig touching her shoulder and making "off comments".

MacGregor said after Craig kissed her on election night 2011 she demanded that they set "boundaries" for the working relationship, including staying at separate hotels when travelling for campaign business.

She said things got better for a start, but she remained uncomfortable at some of his behaviour.

"It got a hell of a lot worse in 2014," she said in court.

MacGregor said she did not respond in a "dodgy" way to any of Craig's letters, poems or text messages.

"I never had any remote romantic interest in Mr Craig. I never sent anything sexual ... there was never any sexual innuendo," she said.

When asked to clarify and confirm that she did respond to correspondence from him during her employment, she said: "It means no sexual harassment in response."

Mills asked MacGregor about her intentions in disclosing the allegation of harassment to Williams.

Williams took notes about MacGregor's revelations and then emailed them to her the next day, suggesting she might want to go to the Conservative Party board and tell them about Craig.

MacGregor said she found the whole process and idea uncomfortable and awkward.

She told the court she was not driven by ousting Craig as party leader, nor was she seeking revenge or publicity.

"All I wanted was an apology ... a private one. I certainly didn't want to be on the front of the Herald.

"All I wanted was my money that he owed me, and for him [Craig] to apologise privately for the harm he had caused me.

"I just wanted to try and move on."

MacGregor was asked if she was surprised that after learning about her allegations against Craig, Williams did not see him as an appropriate person to lead the Conservative Party.

"I can see why he didn't think he was fit to be the leader of the Conservative Party. He was dodgy," MacGregor alleged.

"He [Craig] was disgusting towards me ... he's lying to all sorts of people and trying to manipulate the truth ... I didn't want to stand beside this man who was not who he purported to be."

MacGregor said she was "really embarrassed" about telling Williams about Craig's behaviour - particularly about election night 2011 when Craig kissed her.

"I was weeping," she said.

"I was crying ... for me to actually tell him that was really hard. I remember being really upset ... It was very difficult for me to talk about, especially that, was very traumatic for me."

She said she never suggested Craig had "sexually assaulted" her but reiterated that the kiss was inappropriate, and led to her demanding that she and her then-boss set boundaries for their future working relationship.

MacGregor said she asked Williams to keep the information she had given him confidential.

"You have to be so careful with this information," she told him.

MacGregor also spoke about the back rubs she gave Craig. He suffered a back condition and she, with professional massage experience, offered to help him.

She said helping with his pain and to relax meant he performed better at press interviews.

"You do the very best you can to make sure they do their best," she said, describing Craig as her "client".

She said while she never raised the issue with Craig, she felt "disgusting" rubbing his back and shoulders.

She told the court she did not want to risk losing her job by refusing the massages.

"He used to smell really bad, I would like 'ugh' is this really my job? I was just stuck ... It takes a long time to find a new job," she said.

Colin Craig and Conservative Party Epsom candidate Christine Rankin on the election campaign trail in 2014. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Colin Craig and Conservative Party Epsom candidate Christine Rankin on the election campaign trail in 2014. Photo / Brett Phibbs

In court this afternoon, MacGregor also revealed that shortly after she resigned then-Conservative Party chief executive Christine Rankin called her.

She wanted MacGregor to reconsider her position and stay. MacGregor said no, that Craig was "dodgy as heck" and she was not interested in going back to the job.

The conversation ended and Rankin thought she had hung up. But MacGregor said she was still on the line.

MacGregor could hear Rankin shouting "we're f***ed, we're f***ed".

She told the jury that Williams had "definitely" breached her confidence in going to Rankin and other party members.

"Jordan definitely did do this behind my back. Him telling ... this is a significant breach of the confidentiality. He wasn't supposed to do that, and he knew that."

MacGregor spoke about a card she sent Craig while she was working for him, in which she used "flowery" language to describe how much she admired him and appreciated having him as a boss.

She said it was absolutely not romantic and that is how she speaks and writes to all of her friends.

She said at the time she wrote the card she respected Craig and loved her job.

However, she said, later she "found out he was a douche bag".

The cross examination continues tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 28 Sep 2016 15:04:11 Processing Time: 758ms