27 Sep 2018

Rachel MacGregor: 'I began to feel uneasy about the things he wrote to me'

9:12 pm on 27 September 2018

The former press secretary of Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says she never defamed him and only told a close group of friends in confidence that she'd been sexually harassed.

Colin Craig, left, and Rachel MacGregor

Colin Craig, left, and Rachel MacGregor Photo: Supplied

Rachel MacGregor worked as Mr Craig's secretary from 2011 until two days before the 2014 general election when she resigned and made a sexual harassment complaint.

The pair later reached a confidential settlement over the complaint, as well as a financial dispute.

Mr Craig is now suing Ms MacGregor for defamation over a conversation she had about her complaint to Jordan Williams, as well as a media release and tweet she sent out in 2015.

In response Ms MacGregor is suing Mr Craig over four instances, including two press conferences and a booklet sent to 1.6 million households.

Giving evidence at the High Court in Auckland this afternoon Ms MacGregor began by saying she "never defamed him".

"I told a small group of friends in confidence that I had been sexually harassed by Mr Craig. This was the truth and my honest opinion. I did not broadcast this fact to anyone outside my very small circle of confidence and I did not do anything deliberately to hurt Mr Craig's reputation or to have the fact or the details about the sexual harassment known to the wider public. In fact I took numerous steps to try to keep my sexual harassment claim confidential and private.

She said when she began working for Mr Craig she enjoyed it and regarded him as "a person of integrity and faith".

"At first I was also flattered by his attention and I enjoyed talking to him but over time I began to feel uneasy about the way he spoke to me and the things he wrote to me. He asked me questions about my boyfriends and wanted to know about all parts of my private life."

The pair kissed on the night of the 2011 election and while Mr Craig gave evidence that he was the one who stopped things going further, Ms MacGregor said she had become shy and ended things.

"I deeply regretted that this had happened. We agreed this could not happen again and I had asked for changes to the way we worked together. For example, I wanted to be sure that if we had to travel out of town for the night we would stay in different hotels."

Her lawyer, Hayden Wilson, asked her to read over several letters, including the first Mr Craig sent her towards the end of 2011.

"The part where my heart sunk was actually when he talked about looking down my top and I remember thinking it was really unnecessary for him to write that in a letter because he had already spoken to me about that at work. I'd been embarrassed when he'd spoken to me about it but I thought that was done and dusted. "

In the letter he wrote that people had asked him whether he had kissed her and went on to say "obviously the answer to that was no, not that I wouldn't want to a lot but that is a boundary".

Asked how that made her feel, Ms MacGregor said that the comment had not come as as much of a shock as the comment about looking down her top.

"I had the inclination that he'd wanted to kiss me before."

In another letter Mr Craig wrote of his physical desire for her.

"I remember because he says here: 'I have left the door open for you to say if you need that and I want you to be brave and honest enough to ask if necessary', and I remember thinking 'well, I'm sure as hell not going to ask for that, I sure as hell don't need that'.

"I just definitely did not want to, I wasn't physically attracted to him in any way. I think by that he was basically saying he was leaving the ball in my court and to me that was good because I wasn't going to. The ball was mine and I was just going to keep it there."

A common feature in his letters to Ms MacGregor were questions for her penned in blue.

"I never replied to them. I just always left it because he'd always be asking me basically if I wanted him... essentially, I didn't so I didn't want to reply and just wanted to leave it hoping that he'd realise by not responding it's a no."

'My husband has made very few mistakes in his life'

Before Ms MacGregor gave her evidence Mr Craig called his wife to the stand.

"Now your name is Helen Ruth Craig, the wife of Colin Craig?" he asked, before asking her to read through her evidence.

She said her husband had called her two days before the 2014 election and told her Ms MacGregor had refused to go to an interview after making a sudden pay demand.

"He said she appeared to be having a meltdown."

Later that day Ms MacGregor phoned her directly.

"She warned me that information was about to become public. On the phone call she confessed to me she had been having emotional affairs with my husband. She also admitted to having kissed him on election night and that he had touched her breast."

Mrs Craig said that was the first time she had heard of their election night incident.

"I was hurt and annoyed that the election night incident had happened and that he had not told me," she said.

"My husband has made very few mistakes in his life so when he does it always catches me by surprise."

She said both her and her husband had been shocked to find out in January 2015 that Ms MacGregor had filed a sexual harassment claim

"Colin and I had many discussions and did much soul searching about this and what we would do. It was obvious to me that Colin and Rachel had become too close and lines had been crossed on occasion. The letters, texts, and cards Colin wrote to Rachel and Rachel's texts, emails, cards and letters to Colin are clear evidence of that.

"At that time when the extent of Rachel's allegations were made clear and until today I have always known that the relationship was mutual and did not involve sexual harassment."

She pointed to Ms MacGregor's responses as a sign that things were mutual.

"One that I do remember is 'thank you you've restored my faith in mankind'," she said.

Ms MacGregor's lawyer Linda Clark responded that there would be Conservative Party voters who would say the same thing.

"They're not claiming that he's sexually harassed them for three years," Mrs Craig responded.