Magistrate Rodney Higgins, who is clearly unfit to be a magistrate, has in effect stolen the $180,000 superannuation death benefit of his deceased former partner, Ashleigh Petrie, that should have gone to Ms Petrie’s mother. This fact put together with conflicting evidence given to a Media Watch show that was aired on the 4th of November 2019, as per the video below, has to raise the real possibility that Magistrate Rodney Higgins could have murdered Ashleigh Petrie or had some involvement in her death.
The Age reported on Thursday (17/6/21):
Magistrate Rodney Higgins, who created controversy in 2019 by embarking on a relationship with a court clerk 45 years his junior, has successfully claimed her $180,000 superannuation death benefit even though it was bequeathed to her struggling mother.
Mr Higgins, who earns $324,000 a year as a magistrate in Bendigo, made the successful claim on the death benefits of his late fiance Ashleigh Petrie after the fund, Rest Super, agreed with his argument that he was her de facto partner and therefore her “dependent”.
But the payout has been delayed because lawyers for Ms Petrie’s mother, whom The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have chosen not to name to protect her privacy, have been fighting the decision for 15 months. They have appealed the super fund’s position to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
Mr Higgins, then 68, and Ms Petrie were a couple for seven months and lived together for about four months prior to her death. They were engaged in September 2019. During her relationship with Mr Higgins, Ms Petrie nominated her mother as the beneficiary of her superannuation and life insurance.
But Mr Higgins has refused the mother’s pleas to share the money, citing his hurt that he was not given a portion of Ms Petrie’s ashes. Within months of the young woman’s death, Mr Higgins returned to his partner of 18 years, Lurline Le Neuf, whom he’d left earlier that year to be with Ms Petrie. They share a riverfront home in Shepparton. (Click here to read more)
The Herald Sun is reported today (18/6/21) that “A magistrate earning $324,000 a year sought the superannuation death benefits of a court clerk he was dating within 24 hours of her tragic death, it’s claimed.” And “A coronial inquest ruled Ms Petrie’s death a suicide” (Behind a paywall: Click here)
One of the key questions in any coronial inquiry into someone’s death is: Did anyone benefit financially from the death and if so, what did they know about the death?
This raises questions such as:
- Did the coronial inquiry that ruled Ms Petrie’s death a suicide know that Magistrate Rodney Higgins was trying to get his grubby hands on the $180,000 superannuation death benefit.
- Did the coronial inquiry call Magistrate Rodney Higgins as a witness and did they call the journalists in the below video as witnesses given they gave different accounts to Media Watch than the account Magistrate Rodney Higgins gave Media Watch?
- Did the coronial inquiry know of the allegation that Magistrate Rodney Higgins applied for Ashleigh Petrie’s $180,000 superannuation death benefits within 24 hours of her death?
Below is the Media Watch show on the 4th of November 2019
In the video Magistrate Rodney Higgins gives a different version of events regarding Ashleigh Petrie’s mindset which might not have meant a great deal at the time but is very relevant now given he was the last person to see her alive before she was hit by a car and given he benefited financially from her death.
On a side note: Paul Barry attacked the media in the story which is fine but why was he so soft on Magistrate Rodney Higgins? Paul Barry also needs to explain why he did a story of a predator like Rodney Higgins having a sexual relationship with a young female staff member and then ending the Media Watch show with a quote from sexual predator Alan Jones who has also been having a sexual relationship with his young male employee for numerous years. I published an article in March 2020 titled “Alan Jones’s 22-year-old boyfriend Jake Thrupp sends a legal threat to journalist.” (Click here to read more)
Magistrate Rodney Higgins told Media Watch in the video: “that Ashleigh suffered from depression and anxiety and had told him recently she was “in a dark place”. But he was also adamant the media coverage was a factor in her death.
She was a lovely, young, fragile, impressionable girl. I have no doubt at all that the Herald Sun and Daily Mail articles tipped her over the top. – Phone interview, Rodney Higgins, 1 November, 2019
The video goes on: So, what does the Herald Sun’s editor Damon Johnston have to say in his paper’s defence? He declined our offer of a phone interview. But the day after Petrie’s death, he told Eddie McGuire on Triple M:
DAMON JOHNSTON: … this is one of the saddest stories I think that’ll emerge this year and, and tragic and, you know, all our condolences to Ashleigh Petrie’s family.
– The Hot Breakfast, Triple M, 29 October, 2019
And it seems the story is in fact more complicated than first appears. Damon Johnston says Petrie was in touch with the Herald Sun on a daily basis. And we’ve seen text messages to back that up. He also says she was encouraging their reports:
Ms Petrie explained she wanted to lift the lid on a toxic culture at the court. She saw herself as a whistleblower. Johnston also maintains that Ashleigh never indicated that their reporting distressed her or that she was vulnerable:
Ms Petrie … made it clear in correspondence … that she was not concerned with the coverage and importantly did not indicate to us she was suffering any ill-effects as a result of any articles or was in a fragile state.
– Email, Damon Johnston, Editor, Herald Sun, 4 November, 2019
Daily Mail Australia had a similar response.
Executive editor Lachlan Heywood told us Petrie was open about her relationship, while the Mail blamed the courts’ toxic work culture, and not the media coverage, for putting Petrie under pressure: (Click here to read more: Click where it says transcript)
It’s worth noting that Magistrate Rodney Higgins gave an interview to Media Watch in November 2019, but for The Age’s story a couple of days ago about him in effect stealing the $180,000 and The Age reported “As a member of the judiciary Mr Higgins is constrained in his public comments and declined to respond to queries” which we know is a lie as he gave an interview to Media Watch in 2019.
Evidence to re-open the coronial inquest into Ashleigh Petrie’s death – finding of suicide must now be in doubt
Given the different accounts in the Media Watch show and given Magistrate Rodney Higgins is in effect stealing Ashleigh Petrie’s $180,000 superannuation death benefit that she wanted to go to her mother there is powerful new evidence to re-open the coronial inquest. Even more so if it is true that Magistrate Rodney Higgins applied for the $180,000 superannuation death benefit the day after Ashleigh Petrie died because that is extremely suspicious.
One thing is for sure, Magistrate Rodney Higgins is unfit to be a magistrate and the government should remove him.
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Categories: Magistrate Rodney Higgins