The woman who accused actor Craig McLachlan of inappropriately touching her while on set together faced death threats so intimidating she slept with a knife under her bed.
Christie Whelan Browne alleged in 2018 that McLachlan, her co-star during a 2014 stage production of The Rocky Horror Show, sexually assaulted her while they were performing a scene in bed.
McLachlan sensationally sued for defamation and denied the allegations, before opting to drop the lawsuit ahead of the testimonies of 11 women.
McLachlan will pay all legal costs, totaling about $2 million.
While the outcome has been considered a win for Ms Whelan Browne – who received champagne and flower deliveries from friends after McLachlan dropped the case – she revealed in an interview with Stellar the toll of the public spat.
While the outcome has been considered a win for Ms Whelan Browne – who received champagne and flower deliveries from friends after McLachlan made his statement – she revealed the toll of the public spat
McLachlan walked away on Friday from the lawsuit taken out against the ABC, Nine Network and actor Christie Whelan-Browne. Pictured: One of several photos the defamation trial was shown of the actor (left) posing backstage with Whelan-Brown (right) during a 2005 production of the musical Grease where the pair reportedly met
‘I’d never received death threats before this… When someone has threatened to hold my head under water until I stop breathing… Those threats hit you as real as if someone said them to your face. I slept with a knife by my bed if my husband was away,’ she said.
The 39-year-old stage and screen actress was so terrified that someone would follow through on the threats that she uprooted her life and moved to a new home.
In spite of the fear, Ms Whelan Browne was prepared to defend herself throughout the trial, and felt somewhat unsatisfied when it concluded so abruptly.
There are no winners, she said, but she hopes the high profile nature of the case will inspire reflection about the challenges faced for women.
In January 2018 articles accused the actor of touching, kissing and groping actresses without permission in The Rocky Horror Show, Neighbors, City Homicide and The Doctor Blake Mysteries
On left – BEFORE: Craig McLachlan with his partner Vanessa Scammell in 2016 – before he launched his ‘overwhelming’ lawsuit. On right – AFTER, this year, as he drops his lawsuit
‘There’s a lot of humiliation and anxiety and sleepless nights. None of those are enticing reasons to [speak out]. You should always come from the angle of, why would someone do this if it’s not the truth?’ she said.
‘Women for a long time have smiled and put up with things they didn’t want to, and now they’re saying we don’t want to anymore. If that’s hard to grasp, give me a call and I’ll talk you through it.’
McLachlan was found not guilty of assault and indecent assault during a 2020 hearing at Melbourne Magistrates Court.
But Magistrate Belinda Wallington acknowledged changes in consent laws may have resulted in a different outcome if the alleged assaults were more recent.
As Ms Whelan Browne defended her reputation over the span of four years, she was privately struggling with infertility issues. After several attempts at IVF, she and her husband conceived, and she credits her partner’s support for getting her through the adversity
She described the four complainants as ‘brave and honest witnesses’ at the conclusion of the trial.
As Ms Whelan Browne defended her reputation over the span of four years, she was privately struggling with infertility issues.
After several attempts at IVF, she and her husband conceived, and she credits her partner’s support for getting her through the adversity.
McLachlan sensationally revealed he would be dropping all legal action on the same day the first of 11 women were due to testify against him.
He said: ‘The strain that this case has put on me and, more importantly, my family, has been utterly overwhelming.
Ms Whelan Browne was prepared to defend herself in court
‘I cannot continue to place my family under that strain, and my own mental health will not withstand the continuing pressure.’
Acting Justice Carolyn Simpson discharged the jury after the actor’s barrister Kieran Smark SC applied for leave to discontinue the proceedings.
In his evidence, the award-winning performer agreed he had brought sexual jokes and pranks to The Rocky Horror Show, including deep-throating bananas and masturbating crew members’ arms.
But he denied the allegations in the publications, and accused Whelan Browne and two other women of approaching the media for notoriety or money.