Craig McLachlan admits in court kissing actor who later accused him of sexual harassment

Home Arts Craig McLachlan admits in court kissing actor who later accused him of sexual harassment
Craig McLachlan admits in court kissing actor who later accused him of sexual harassment

Actor Craig McLachlan has told a Sydney court that while backstage during a 2014 theatre production he kissed an actor who has since accused him of sexual harassment.

McLachlan made the admission during cross-examination in his defamation trial against the ABC and Fairfax Media over stories published in 2018. 

The stories contained allegations he indecently assaulted, bullied and exposed himself to female cast members during the 2014 tour of The Rocky Horror Show. 

McLachlan is also suing actor Christie Whelan Browne who made the allegations to the ABC’s 7.30 program and the Sydney Morning Herald, which is now owned by Nine Entertainment Co. 

He has so far denied all allegations in court but on Wednesday under questioning by the media organisation’s barrister, Michael Hodge QC, he accepted he did kiss actor Erika Heynatz in her dressing room before a show in Melbourne. 

He said he had been in his own dressing room with his long-time partner Vanessa Scammell before he told her he was going to “check up on Erika”. 

He said he knocked on Heynatz’s door, she told him to come in and he then told her to “look at me”. 

“She did and I kissed her.” 

“I said words to the effect of ‘I can’t stop thinking about you’ …. I spun back on my heel… and said ‘I think I might be falling love with you’.” 

Earlier on Wednesday McLachlan broke down on the stand and revealed he was admitted to a mental health facility after the stories were published. 

McLachlan, who has enjoyed a long and successful acting career in Australia, told the court the reports damaged his reputation and caused him so much social anxiety he feared ever leaving his house.

He said for a long time his only social activity was shopping for his elderly mother while wearing a disguise.

“You are fearful to ever step outside … you feel absolutely powerless against it,” he said.

“I have been to a restaurant once in four and a half years.”

A woman with long hair wearing sunglasses
Christie Whelan Browne made allegations against Craig McLachlan.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

He said on one occasion when he was wearing a disguise while shopping in Coles his hat fell off and a nearby customer recoiled in fear when she identified him.

“[The] woman grabbed her children and reigned them in … looking at me in disgust, it was very, very difficult to reconcile,” the 56-year-old said.

McLachlan gave evidence that immediately after the stories were aired on January 8, 2018 his cousin came and stayed with him as he was worried he would “do something stupid” and by the end of the year the actor had to be admitted into a mental health facility.

He also explained it was too upsetting to read and watch the stories when they went live and Ms Scammell had to read them to him days later.

The Sydney Morning Herald put McLachlan on the front cover of their January 8 edition and a double-page spread led with the headline: “Manipulative, a predator: McLachlan stands accused”, the court heard.

“When the news broke … and it was revealed to me that these allegations had been made by my friends, it was just too difficult quite frankly to read the article on the day,” he said.

“The realisation that my friends who ‘goosed me’, poked me, laughed with me and sat on my lap for almost eight months, [who] stuck their fingers up my nose, shared their lives with me, were making these allegations …” McLachlan said before breaking down.

On Tuesday the former Neighbours star told the jury the cast of the Rocky Horror Show often played gags or “schticks” on each other and said Whelan Browne often ‘goosed’ people – which he described as someone using their fingers to poke someone else between the buttocks.

The trial is expected to hear from 11 women who worked with McLachlan on the Rocky Horror Show and TV shows including The Doctor Blake Mysteries about inappropriate touching or comments by the actor.

On Wednesday morning his lawyer Kieran Smark SC outlined the dozens of allegations made by the women, all of which McLachlan emphatically denied.

Some accusations include that he touched the genitals of Whelan Browne during a bedroom scene in the Rocky Horror Show, he exposed himself to many of the cast members and he threatened to “end” one actor who complained about him kissing her without consent.

The hearing continues.

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