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"Just so degrading." Woman raped by Australian cricketer Alex Hepburn on discovering she was part of a 'game', & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1. “Just so degrading.” Woman raped by Australian cricketer Alex Hepburn on discovering she was part of a ‘game’.

Warning: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.

A woman who was raped by cricketer Alex Hepburn said she was humiliated to learn the crime was part of a WhatsApp sex conquest game.

In April, ex-Worcestershire county player Hepburn was found guilty of one count of oral rape at the Worcester Crown Court in the UK, following a retrial. A jury found the 23-year-old had raped a sleeping woman at a party in April 2017, but cleared him of a second count of rape involving the same victim.

He has been sentenced to five years prison, but is appealing his conviction.

alex hepburn victim
Sarah* speaks to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire. Image: BBC.

The woman, known only as Sarah*, told the BBC it was "so humiliating" to find out at the trial she had unknowingly been part of a ‘sex conquest’ game he set up on WhatsApp with his cricketing teammates.

"I don’t even think he thought it was rape. Like the judge said he trivialised rape. I’m adamant that he thought I’d be grateful for this," she said.

"To talk about women that way, we're just items. We're just another number, a competition. It's just so degrading.

"The judge hit the nail on the head when he said he arrogantly assumed that I'd consent."

The woman had consensual sex with Hepburn’s then-teammate, Joe Clarke, earlier in the evening before falling asleep.

Clarke had passed out in the bathroom after the encounter. The woman later woke to find a man, whom she believed to be Clarke, engaging in a sex act with her in the dimly lit room. She only realised it was Hepburn when he spoke in an Australian accent.

She pushed him off and asked where Clarke was while Hepburn was “pawing” at her legs. After running out into the street, she stopped a passer-by and asked for help.

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The victim was required to give evidence twice after a jury failed to reach a verdict at a trial earlier this year. She said the process has torn her life apart and put her future on hold.

The trauma of the rape and the subsequent trials had left her with PTSD, and four months after the attack she was rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke, after the left side of her face dropped and froze.

Doctors said she had Bell’s Palsy, a sudden weakness or paralysis of one side of the face often brought on by stress.

She had planned to travel after university and do further study to become a primary school teacher, but all of that was delayed because of the trial.

During the trial, Judge Tim Tindal told Hepburn he “demeaned women” and arrogantly treated the victim as “a piece of meat”.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

2. Chris Bowen has pulled out of the Labor leadership race, leaving Anthony Albanese in front.

who is anthony albanese
Photo: Brook Mitchell

Anthony Albanese could soon be elected unopposed as the new Labor leader after contender Chris Bowen pulled out of the race.

But Queenslander Jim Chalmers is still considering whether to throw his hat in the ring.

Mr Bowen's decision to withdraw a day after announcing his tilt came as left faction senator Penny Wong appeared concerned about reports interim leader Bill Shorten, from the right, was actively trying to prevent Mr Albanese from becoming leader.

"I would be surprised if that were occurring," she told reporters in Adelaide

"It wouldn't be consistent with the role of a former leader or current interim leader and it would undermine the unity that Bill has been such an important part in rebuilding."

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Mr Bowen withdrew on Wednesday afternoon once it became clear Mr Albanese had solid grassroots support.

The shadow treasurer insists he would have secured support from the majority of the Labor caucus, but concedes Mr Albanese would have won a vote of rank and file members "by a good margin".

"I have reached the view that it would be unlikely for me to win the ballot," Mr Bowen said.

"So ... not thinking it's really viable for me to win, it wouldn't be fair to put the party through the cost, the process and the delay for the start of a new leader."

Mr Bowen's withdrawal opened the door to another contender such as Mr Chalmers, who is also from the party's right, to take on the frontrunner from its left.

Mr Chalmers, who has been in parliament since 2013 as the member for the Brisbane seat of Rankin, is weighing up his next steps.

"I feel for Chris and I know it would've been hard for him to pull out," he said.

"I'm being encouraged to nominate for leader and I'll now consider my options overnight. Labor needs to rebuild, refresh and renew and I want to play a prominent role in that. What role is to be determined."

The Labor national executive met on Wednesday night to map out the leadership process, with nominations to open on Thursday and close on Monday.

If Mr Albanese is not the only candidate, ALP members will vote on their preferred leader in a postal ballot between May 31 and June 27.

The Labor caucus would then meet and cast their votes on July 1, with both the rank-and-file and parliamentary vote holding equal weight.

Mr Albanese believes the majority of his caucus colleagues are backing him, putting him in a good position to ward off challengers.

"I am confident, but not complacent, about being able to succeed if another candidate comes forward," he told reporters in Sydney.

"If they do, as is their right, we will have a respectful debate."

About 18 caucus members have so far come out in support of Mr Albanese, from across the party's left and right factions.

Mr Albanese won the grass roots support but lost the caucus vote in the 2013 leadership battle with Mr Shorten.

The process was set up by Kevin Rudd to end the "revolving door" of leadership.

3. Disgraced businessman Salim Mehajer demands mobile phone as part of his bail arrangement for 'safety'.

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Disgraced Sydney businessman Salim Mehajer is seeking legal access to a mobile phone because "his safety is paramount" and prison officers had intelligence there was a $250,000 bounty on his head, his lawyer says.

The 32-year-old former Auburn deputy mayor applied for a number of bail variations in Parramatta District Court on Wednesday.

This included access to one phone, the ability to live at home without his mother and a lift on his prohibition from social media - particularly Instagram.

Mehajer's solicitor, Zali Burrows, said "one of the most concerning things" justifying the phone use was a previous break-and-enter at his Lidcombe home and a news report that Silverwater corrections officers "had intelligence there was a $250,000 bounty - that was a hit - on him".

She tendered a June 2018 article published by the Daily Mail and told Judge James Bennett the bounty was not something the "journalists ... would just make up".

Mehajer's younger sister, Mariam "Mary" Mehajer, provided an affidavit indicating the family communicate with each other through social media.

Under questioning on Wednesday, she said contacting her brother via a landline phone or email would be inadequate.

"I do believe that communication should be instant and it should always be available," Ms Mehajer told the court.

Mehajer - who still considers himself a property developer - was released from Cooma Correctional Centre on Tuesday morning after serving 11 months behind bars for electoral fraud.

Ms Burrows said Mehajer also wanted his bail varied so he could leave the state as he has fresh legal proceedings in Cooma, a NSW town south of the ACT.

The trip is "roughly" seven hours by road, the lawyer said.

But Judge Bennett suggested there was no more than a 10-minute difference in driving through or around the ACT from Sydney to get to Cooma.

He asked Ms Burrows to present him with a Google Map of the two journeys when Mehajer's bail variation review resumes on Tuesday.

NSW Police on Friday charged Mehajer with fraud offences, alleging he nominated another person as the driver of his vehicles which had received infringement notices in 2012 and 2013.

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He is facing four counts of making a false declaration and four counts of "dealing in identification information" and is due to front Cooma Local Court in July.

Mehajer is additionally fighting allegations he staged a 2017 crash in which his Mercedes AMG collided with another vehicle just before he was meant to appear in court over a taxi driver assault.

A Nine spokeswoman on Tuesday said they have been in talks with Mehajer over the past year "to tell his story" on their 60 Minutes program.

Outside court on Wednesday, Mehajer asked reporters to "please" leave him alone.

4. Theresa May has failed to gain support on a second Brexit referendum.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's final Brexit gambit is in tatters just hours after her offer of a vote on a second referendum and closer trading arrangements failed to win over opposition lawmakers or many in her own party.

Nearly three years since Britain voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the European Union, May is trying one last time to get her divorce deal approved by the British parliament before her crisis-riven premiership ends.

May on Tuesday appealed to lawmakers to get behind her deal, offering the prospect of a possible second referendum on the agreement and closer trading arrangements with the EU as incentives.

Conservative and Labour lawmakers lined up to criticise May's Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or WAB, legislation which implements the terms of Britain's departure.

"We are being asked to vote for a customs union and a second referendum," Boris Johnson, the bookies favourite to be Britain's next prime minister, said.

"The Bill is directly against our manifesto - and I will not vote for it. We can and must do better - and deliver what the people voted for," he said.

The deadlock in London means it is unclear how, when or even if Britain will leave the EU. The current deadline to leave is October 31.

The world's fifth largest economy faces an array of options including an exit with a deal to smooth the transition, a no-deal exit, an election or a second referendum.

US investment bank JPMorgan raised its probability of a no-deal Brexit to 25 per cent from 15 per cent, saying its base case was that Johnson would become prime minister followed by a general election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party could not vote for the Withdrawal Bill, describing May's new offer as "largely a rehash of the government's position" in talks with the opposition that broke down last week.

"It's far too weak. It doesn't really offer anything new or anything bold," Labor's Brexit spokesman Kier Starer said.

"It's already pretty clear that it's heading for a pretty big loss and I think frankly the prime minister would do well to just admit defeat and I think she should announce today that she's not going to put the vote because it's clearly heading in the wrong direction."

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May wrote to Corbyn, asking him to compromise so that Brexit could take place.

"I have shown today that I am willing to compromise to deliver Brexit for the British people," May wrote. "The WA is our last chance to do so," May said.

"I ask you to compromise too so that we can deliver what both our parties promised in our manifestos and restore faith in our politics," she said.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May's minority government, said the "fatal flaws" of her original deal remained. They fear the divorce deal could see Northern Ireland split from the rest of the UK.

Such is the discord that some Conservative Party lawmakers have begun a new push to oust her even earlier so that she doesn't have the chance to put her Brexit plan to a vote in parliament, the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said.

5. Another Olympic medallist has criticised the new testosterone regulations.

Another Olympic medallist has criticised the IAAF's testosterone regulations and is refusing to take hormone-reducing medication.

Margaret Wambui of Kenya, who won bronze in the 800-metres behind Caster Semenya at the 2016 Rio Olympics, says she is affected by the new rules but won't take "any type of medication" to lower her natural testosterone.

She calls it "wrong" for the IAAF to ask athletes to alter "our natural body function."

Semenya, a two-time Olympic 800m champion, lost her case against the IAAF, allowing track's governing body to implement testosterone limits in races from 400m to 1500m.

Wambui says she is considering switching to the 100m and 200m events, distances not affected by the rules.

Semenya also says she won't take medication and has entered a 3000m race in the United States next month.

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