‘Part of me died that day’: Woman at centre of Australia’s controversial rape acquittal
THE woman whose rape case sparked national debate about the issue of consent reveals what happened that night and how it changed her life.
THE woman at the centre of a controversial Sydney rape case which prompted a national debate on the issue of consent has relived her experience in a tell-all interview, saying “part of me died that day”.
“I never knew what panic attacks felt like until my incident. I never knew what it felt like to be utterly helpless. The first time I ever felt like that was in an alleyway behind Soho,” Saxon Mullins told ABC’s Four Corners on Monday night.
“I thought that once I left the alleyway, all the pain would go away. But it didn’t leave me for weeks … I know a part of me died that day.”
She was a teenage virgin when she met Luke Lazarus, the private school boy son of a nightclub owner, on her first night out in Kings Cross in May, 2013.
The pair met on a dancefloor, and within minutes moved outside into a laneway near Soho nightclub.
The night ended with her in hysterics and a five-year legal battle — in which Mr Lazarus was ultimately acquitted.
Saxon, from the New South Wales’ Central Coast decided to waive her anonymity to reveal the story of what happened that night and how it has changed her life.
“There’s something I need to get off my chest. I’ve spent far too long feeling embarrassed and ashamed. The 18-year-old in the story is me,” she told Four Corners.
“Those awful things happened to me. I am that girl.”
Ms Mullins said she always dreamt her first time would be special.
“I had this grandiose, romantic [notion]: ‘It’ll be by candlelight on a bed of roses’, with someone who loves me,” she said.
But the reality was very different and Ms Mullins and Mr Lazarus’ lives have changed forever because of what happened on that night.
Mr Lazarus was acquitted of anally raping the then 18-year-old after a jury previously found him guilty and he served 11 months in jail.
However, Ms Mullins told the ABC she felt “let down and confused” after a judge overturned Mr Lazarus’ rape conviction.
The first judgment, she said, left her with “a bit of relief. Not only for, ‘it’s over’, but ‘they believed me’. And then there’s the inevitable bit of guilt. I can’t help but feel I destroyed someone’s life.”
Saxon’s sister, Arnica Mullins said they always expected Mr Lazarus would appeal, “just given the amount of resources that he has”. They just didn’t think he’d be successful.
It devastated Saxon.
“I lost something that night all those years ago and I’ve been searching for it ever since,’ she told the ABC.
“The reality is this doesn’t get to be over for me. I don’t get to know who I would be today had this not happened to me, and I mourn for that person. She seemed like she was on her way to being great.”
She told Four Corners it all began when she set off with her best friend, Brittany Watts, on a train from the Central Coast to Sydney on that day in May, 2013.
They headed to Kings Cross — then the booming night-life hub for Sydney’s young partygoers — and decided to save money that night and preload their booze.
Ms Saxon had downed about 10 standard drinks by the time they arrived at Soho — one of the most popular nightclubs in the Cross at the time — shortly before 4am.
“This guy started dancing with me, so I just danced with him,” Ms Mullins told the ABC.
She thought he was attractive so they walked off together. She said Mr Lazarus told her he was going to take her to a VIP area. Instead, he took her outside to a back lane.
The pair kissed in the lane, but Ms Mullins claims she repeatedly told Lazarus that she wanted to go back to her friend.
“And he was like, ‘No, it’s fine’, and I went to move away and he kind of pulled me back and pulled my stockings and my underwear down,” she said. So, I pulled them back up and I said, ‘No I really have to go now’.
“He said, ‘Put your f**king hands on the wall’. And … so I did.”
Mr Lazarus agrees with this account, but denies swearing and says he did pull Saxon’s stockings and underwear down but that she didn’t protest.
In Luke Lazarus’ version, he did not swear at Saxon Mullins when, as they were kissing, he asked her to put her hands on the wall.
The pair had sex, but their accounts of what happened next differ — leading to a messy, long legal battle.
Saxon’s best friend, Brittany Watts, said her friend was crying hysterically when they reunited on the street.
“And it was from that moment everything in her … changed,” Brittany told Four Corners.
“Like, that’s when I saw it. Just seeing her fall apart. It was almost like she just crumbled. And I will never forget that moment.”
Recalling what happened to her, Ms Mullins said: “My heart was going at a million miles an hour, I don’t even think I was breathing for a majority of the time”.
When it was over, Luke Lazarus asked her to put her name in his phone. He would later say he wanted Saxon’s name as part of a trophy list of women in his phone.
“Was a sick night. Took a chick’s virginity, lol,” Mr Lazarus said in a text message to a friend in the wake of the encounter.
Saxon went to the police. And took a week off work.
“I sat in the bath. I didn’t want to see anyone. I was so humiliated. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to sleep,” she said.
Mr Lazarus’ conviction was quashed on appeal and he was cleared in a judge-alone retrial in 2016.
Judge Robyn Tupman found Mr Lazarus reasonably believed the teenager, who told him she was a virgin, was consenting and acquitted him.
She also accepted the woman believed she wasn’t consenting.
After that verdict, there was a celebration at the Lazarus family home.
“After the first trial when he was found guilty, we didn’t throw a party,” Arnica Mullins told Four Corners.
In November last year, a Crown appeal against Mr Lazarus’ acquittal was dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeal, with Judge Tupman’s verdict upheld.
Even though the appeals court found Judge Tupman had made a legal error, it did not order a third trial, because it would be unfair to Luke Lazarus, who had already spent 11 months in jail.
Mr Lazarus’ acquittal, on the grounds he did not know the then-teenager had not consented, sparked debate on how the law interprets the issue of consent in rape cases.
Saxon is still haunted by the case which put sexual consent on trial.
“It got to be over for everybody else. There’s no other avenues. Everyone’s done, everyone goes home, and then it’s just me. And I’m still here … I’m still living it.”
Speaking about consent laws, she said “on a social level, I think we need to teach people about making sure that the person that you are with wants to be with you”.
“Enthusiastic consent is really easy to determine. And I think if you don’t have that, then you’re not good to go. All you need to say is, ‘do you want to be here? And very clearly, ‘do you want to have sex with me? Do you want to be doing what we’re doing?’ And if it’s not an enthusiastic yes, then it’s not enough. If it’s not an enthusiastic yes, it’s a no. That’s it. And then, you’re committing a crime. Simple as that.”
Her sister and best friend say Saxon has changed markedly since the incident.
“There was just like a light in her. She was just so bright, she was so happy, everyone loved Saxon. Everyone loves her. And this light, it’s just not there anymore,” said Brittany Watts.
Luke Lazarus and his family did not take part in the Four Corners story.