Mystery email at centre of Salim’s break-up
THE former wife of controversial property developer Salim Mehajer wiped away tears as she told a court of the Instagram post that made her "uneasy" and scared to be alone.
The message from Mehajer's account was sent to his now ex-wife Aysha Learmonth about 5am on November 10 last year and she believed it was a coded way of telling her he knew where she was working and was watching her.
Mehajer, 31, appeared in Burwood Local Court today for the first of two days of hearings relating to alleged breaches of an apprehended violence order (AVO). Mehajer has denied sending the message, insisting his Instagram account was hacked.
Ms Learmonth, who revealed the couple divorced earlier this month, said she took a screenshot of the message before she deleted it and blocked Mehajer.
Asked why she responded that way, she told police prosecutor Stephen Dayeian: "He was not allowed to contact me."
She gave evidence from a police station via video link because she did not want to be in the same room as him. Magistrate Jacqueline Trad allowed her to do so, despite opposition from Mehajer, because Ms Learmonth gave physical and mental reasons that were supported by a letter from her GP.
Ms Learmonth believed the Instagram message was from her ex-husband because it was sent from his account and the contents were things he had repeated "numerous" times to her.
"That he realised the person he had become and that he was a changed person," she said.
They were sentiments "Salim himself" had shared with her many times before.
What alarmed her was the pointed references to her beauty business.
"It was pointing out things about my business ... more of a way to say he knows about it ... I'd made every attempt to make it private."
She added: "Salim tends to find out what I'm up to."
Mr Dayeian asked her how that made her feel.
"Very uneasy," she replied as she started to cry. "I was hesitating to close my business. I felt unsafe [going to work] by myself."
"I'd made every effort to have no contact with Salim whatsoever and having that business was the first time I'd put myself back into life basically, where he would know where I was."
Mehajer's lawyer Geoffrey Foster asked Ms Learmonth if she was lying when she told the courts she hadn't spoken to him since mid-2016.
"No emails, no Instagram messages?" he queried.
"Not one," Ms Learmonth told him. He pushed further asking about the nature of their relationship in July 2017.
"We were separated, I had no contact," she said.
He asked her: "You still in love ... Are you sure?" to which she replied: "Most definitely not".
He then asked her about an email received from her Hotmail account in July 2017.
"Did you ever write, "Hi Salim, how are you ... I have really thought about our relationship and decided I will finally return to you. I know I have been distant but I think the space has been healthy for us."
Ms Learmonth said she didn't send the email and denied telling him in July 2017 that she loved him.
She alleged there had been many "fraudulent or fabricated" emails, letters signed for by Mehajer pretending to be her since they split. In that time she claimed she had been besieged by about 400 emails from him.
The court heard she hadn't had use of that email account since at least 2016. The password had been changed and she never recovered the account.
"I didn't write it. I had no contact with him since 2016," she said.
Mr Foster accused her of lying.
"I put it to you what you saying is a fabrication and a lie. What do you say?" he challenged.
"It's absolutely incorrect," Ms Learmonth replied.
She suggested there were other reasons for the email.
"I do think this email helped in his bail application to leave the county. He was trying to say we were together when in fact we were not," she said.
Mr Foster put it to her there was no evidence a "third party", and not Mehajer, sent the message.
"That's just an idea you have in your head," he said, before adding: "You're imagining it, you're an imaginative person aren't you?"
The lawyer then accused her of deliberately setting out to cause trouble.
"You personally want to say anything that may blacken his character and cause him problems don't you?"
She told him: "I've no need to do that".
Earlier on Monday, Mr Foster told Magistrate Jacqueline Trad the application for Ms Learmonth was "stridently opposed".
"My client's view is this is nothing more than the alleged victim grandstanding trying to demonstrate her self-importance - she's nothing more than a drama queen."
He said: "My client is here today because of allegations made by this person to what she says happened so she should be here … He is asking this court to properly assess her credibility - her credibility is a major, major factor in this case."
Mehajer, looking slimmer after several weeks behind bars, watched on from the dock, dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and black tie.
Mr Dayeian provided the magistrate with two documents, one a letter outlining why Ms Learmonth didn't want to appear physically in court and another from her GP.
He revealed the police weren't even aware of where Ms Learmonth was and their communication with her was via email or telephone.
"We don't know where she is and she won't tell police where she is," he said.
Ms Learmonth wanted to visit a police station to give her evidence and indicated to police she was fearful of being followed home.
"In essence what was said she won't be coming … its AVL or nothing … she started crying [and] other things were said," Mr Dayeian said.
The lavish wedding of Mehajer and Ms Learmonth made national headlines, with the outdoor ceremony featuring four helicopters, a jet, a sea plane and a motorcade of luxury sports cars and motorcycles.
The hearing was adjourned until April 24 when the defence is expected to call two witnesses to give evidence.