Rachel MacGregor horrified by 'really bad poetry'

Colin Craig and Rachel MacGregor, his former press secretary.
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Colin Craig and Rachel MacGregor, his former press secretary.

Rachel MacGregor has told a court she was horrified by former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig's "really bad poetry," and felt trapped while she was working for him.

On Monday, MacGregor - Craig's former press secretary - gave evidence in the Auckland High Court, where Craig is suing Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater. 

Slater's lawyer Brian Henry cross-examined MacGregor, asking her reaction to a letter Craig wrote to her on Christmas Eve in 2014, which included two love poems.

Colin Craig at the Auckland High Court.
CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Colin Craig at the Auckland High Court.

"I remember feeling really offended, because we agreed that there were going to be boundaries and he had even written them himself, and now he's writing me really bad poetry," she said.

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"It was awful actually, especially because he was going really into detail about me physically."

One of the poems, titled Beautiful, which Craig has admitted was inappropriate, featured lines like, "You are beautiful because your skin is so soft."

It was part of a bevy of letters and poetry Craig sent MacGregor while he employed her as his press secretary.

MacGregor told the court the letters frustrated her.

"It just disgusted me. He was just so stupid, like what are you doing? It's just gone from bizarre to ridiculous. I was thinking 'oh for goodness' sake this is so awkward'."

MacGregor described her first impressions of Craig when she came to work for him in 2011.

"Badly dressed. He was a little bit sort of odd; he had his pants sort of pulled up really high and stuff, sort of dorky, but he was just a middle-aged man trying to have a job at politics.

"I set about to try and get him an image that was worthy of being part of public discussion. He needed a completely new wardrobe, he needed a proper haircut."

However, MacGregor said what developed was an overbearing relationship in which the "whiny" Craig wanted to spend more and more time with her.

He often requested back massages, asked her to work weekends with him and to come into his office after hours for a "debrief". 

She repeatedly asked Craig to write "boundaries" into her contract, and he responded by penning another letter. 

"As we all know with Colin Craig he looks to do things in a weird way, you know; an out of the ordinary, quirky way. I asked him to put boundaries in my contract. His way of doing it was writing me a letter from him and [his wife] Helen."

Henry asked MacGregor about an incident on election night 2011, where she and Craig kissed and he touched her breast.

Asked who stopped the incident, MacGregor said: "I did."

"At that point I really lost faith in Colin. I thought he was trustworthy, but I lost a lot of trust in him."

However, she felt she couldn't quit her job. 

"The car that I drove, Colin owned. I had a dog and I needed to keep my rental property; in order to keep my rental property I had to keep a job. I needed to keep my job so that I could keep afloat really."

She disputed Craig's evidence about a flight from Napier to Auckland in 2014 in which he claims she propositioned him, saying she wanted to be "more than just his press secretary".

"It's just ridiculous. I know it's very convenient for Mr Craig's story, but there's no way I said that or would say that."

Slater is also counter suing Craig.

CRAIG'S LAWYER WAS A SOURCE FOR SLATER

Earlier on Monday, Madeleine Flannagan, who was an Auckland lawyer working on an application by Craig and his wife to adopt a child in 2015, gave tearful evidence. 

Flannagan had also been friends with Slater for around 11 years. 

She said she became concerned about allegations in the media, driven by Slater, that Craig had sexually harassed MacGregor. She was worried about how it would affect the Craigs' adoption application.

"There was talk about a dossier of information. There was suggestion this dossier contained more info than was available publicly. I needed to know what allegations we were potentially dealing with," she said. 

"I discussed these things with my clients. The Craigs told me they too were concerned that if more allegations were published, this might negatively affect their application."

In June 2015, with the Craigs' approval, Flannagan phoned Slater asking him what other information he had. She told him she could not disclose who her client was and the conversation must remain confidential. 

However, Slater inferred from the phone call that Flannagan was a lawyer acting on behalf of a victim of Craig's, and then used her as the source for allegations he published on Whaleoil that Craig had a "second victim".

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Slater's lawyer Brian Henry argued Craig was using Flannagan to find out how much information Slater had. 

"Do you agree that Mr Craig was using you to try and find out what Mr Slater knew?" he asked.

"Well it was my idea to ring Cameron," Flannagan said. "I don't think Mr Craig even knew I had that relationship."

Subsequently both parties tried to rope her into defamation proceedings. 

"My client and now my friend were both asking me for affidavits to use against the other in the same proceeding. Notwithstanding this I knew my obligation of confidence could still not allow me to tell Cameron who my client was," she said, and broke down crying.

When Slater was recalled to the witness box by Henry, he said he found it difficult to describe his current relationship with Flannagan.

"I'm just lost for words at the betrayal of someone I considered a friend.

"If I knew she was a lawyer for Mr Craig I would have never spoken to her. This entire allegation would never have come out but for the deception placed upon me."

Justice Kit Toogood asked Slater: "You say you felt betrayed, but did you not betray her express injunction that this [conversation] cannot go anywhere else?"

"I did dance around on that but I guess technically I did," Slater said.

 - Stuff

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