NSW mayor wanted nothing to do with 'blackmail' letter

·2-min read
Murray McCloskey/AAP PHOTOS

When the former mayor of Bathurst read the contents of an anonymous letter sent to a councillor splashed on the front page of his local newspaper, he said "that bloody Darryl".

Robert "Bobby" Bourke has pleaded not guilty to misconduct in public office over an anonymous letter sent to Councillor Jacqui Rudge in March 2020, which said she should "stand down" or her history of mental illness would be made public.

Bourke denies knowing what the letter said, but told police he organised for it to be posted to Ms Rudge at the request of his friend and campaign manager Darryl Leahey.

In a February 2021 interview with NSW Police detectives, Bourke said he asked two volunteer employees at the community op-shop he ran to buy a stamp and post the letter.

Bourke said he only realised what was in the letter when it was published in Bathurst's Western Advocate newspaper and he spoke to his colleagues about it.

"When it was in the paper, we were talking about it and I said 'that bloody Darryl', that's probably what we sent away for him," Bourke said in the recorded interview, played at the NSW District Court in Orange on Thursday.

The 67-year-old's trial has heard Mr Leahey told a local journalist he was the author of the letter. Mr Leahey later faced court proceedings.

During Bourke's police interview, one of the detectives asked if he thought it was "strange" that Mr Leahey could run an election campaign, but couldn't post a letter.

"If it's strange, it's strange, but that's just Darryl," Bourke said.

He said there was tension between the men and Ms Rudge over council matters and she had stopped answering their phone calls.

"I didn't write the letter, I didn't know what was in the letter," Bourke told police.

"I didn't think it was threatening, that's how Darryl speaks.

"Jacqui hated me, she thinks I put her under a bus ... I was just staying away from it."

Ms Rudge previously told the trial she was once close friends with Bourke, who encouraged her to be number two on his ticket at the 2017 council election. 

She did not always support Bourke's motions to council and their relationship soured.

"(He said) the other councillors wanted to get rid of me, he brought me on council and it was up to him to get me off council," Ms Rudge said on Monday.

The jury has been told it will have to consider if the letter was a "threat of blackmail", whether Bourke knew what it said and if it was in connection with his role as mayor.

The trial continues on Friday.

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