Ashleigh Petrie and Magistrate Rodney HigginsMagistrate Rodney Higgins

Did 68-year-old Magistrate Rodney Higgins murder his 23-year-old lover Ashleigh Petrie so he could claim her $180,000 death benefit?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

(To watch on the Media Watch website click here)

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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15 replies »

  1. What a disgusting piece of human scum. A great salary and yet he claimed that money particularly as Ashleigh had obviously wanted her Mum to have it. Greed personified. Also a disgrace that a superannuation company should not insist the person’s instructions be honoured.

    • From the very day this superannuation thing started I said it was a scam. And it is. They say that possession is 9/10ths of the law… so they take YOUR money and put in under THEIR control – YOU are not allowed to touch it for up to many decades, and even when you die they can still decide who gets it. That scum of a man is a great example of why they do that.

    • Yeah I know right ? The fact that lovely girl could even consider having intercourse with a bloke old enough to be her grandad is revolting in itself but really? Wanting to give her super to her mother is just too much.

  2. Sadly the young lady may not have done her due diligence when making her plans. She cannot nominate her mother as recipient of her superannuation death benefit as a parent is not a ‘dependent’ under the SIS Act. She should have got legal advice and then she would have learned that she should have nominated her executor as the beneficiary so that the super went into her estate and would then be distributed according to her will. That way Higgins would have to start an expensive claim against the estate under a family provision claim and risk loosing and having costs awarded against him. Fellow sceptics, don’t make the same mistake and get appropriate advice about such matters, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Not all solicitors are scum!

    • Higgins comes under the category of a person entitled to her superannuation in view of the interdependent relationship which is defined in section 10A of the SIS Act, as –

      they have a close personal relationship; and
      a) they live together; and
      b) one or each of them provides the other with financial support;
      c) one or each of them provides the other with domestic support and personal care

      The intent of Ashleigh is there by naming her mother as the person to benefit from her super should she die. I understand that she named her mother in the document when she was in the relationship with Higgins. Four months of cohabitation is a big jump to demand the super benefits based on the permanency of the relationship. Did Higgins satisfy the (b) and (c) definitions? That would be the question also to be answered by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. Ashleigh’s Mum has taken her case to this Authority. Commonsense should prevail as firstly, Ashleigh intended her mother to have the money and therefore in the event of her death, it would have gone to her Estate with the incorrect form filling if Higgins hadn’t been on the scene. Secondly, Higgins doesn’t need the money but the mother does and Ashleigh use to help out her mother financially. And thirdly, it was obviously a bit of a fling for the Magistrate who was taking advantage of a young immature 19 year old in view of the fact that Higgins has moved back in with his wife. No grieving partner there with that move, just as dirty old man.

  3. What a sad excuse for a human being. If he loved the young lady enough, enough to claim her Super, why does he not care about her broken hearted mother? This man should be shunned and the legal profession itself should be looking into this. Magistrates/judges are supposed to be of good character this does not show good character but a bad character in my opinion!

  4. Bigamy and polygamy are not legal (despite multiple de facto relationships being recognised under welfare provisions in order to reduce payments).

    He was in 2 relationships (his longterm de facto was and continues to be in their home to which he has returned).

    The intent of the legislation was to provide for dependents such as children and non working or low paid spouse who would be impoverished by loss of the major breadwinner.

  5. Yes a lot of unanswered questions need to be asked also was it a really a true engagement one he was still married to his first wife and then he was in a de facto relationship for 18 years Never married her , was he only saying he was engaged to get the courts and media off his back because of what was going on in the courts system? Also ask Rodney how many times in that month they were engaged did he call it off ? Also the relationship wasn’t all love and roses lots of toxic times also a lot of things about that night don’t add up people in high places get to make things go away needs to be a inquest her mother should have got the payout

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