Sunday, 24 May 2015

Word Gets Around

42 year old Mrs Page Abernathy was the Chief Executive Officer and very much the public face of the Keeping Families Together Charity. She created for herself a high celebrity profile and appeared to be a trustworthy public figure. In stark contrast to that public persona she was having an adulterous affair with low profile, Mr Lachlan Tedeschi, a 46 year old litigation lawyer, and also the very high profile and married Mr Herbert Strauss, a 50 year old Chief Executive Officer of the Major Bank.

Art Gallery Opening February 2013
Page Abernathy and Lachlan Tedeschi met at an art gallery opening in February 2013 and immediately struck up a friendship. During their interaction at the art gallery Page was very encouraging of Lachlan and shortly before the function was due to end they went home together to the house of Lachlan Tedeschi.

“My husband understands my affairs, so long as I keep them discreet and he is away a lot on business”, Page told Lachlan, as they were getting to know each other a lot better at his house.

Lachlan replied, “Being discreet is not a problem for me.”

Page: “We can spend a fair bit of time together, work schedules permitting and apart from my husband, you are the only man I am seeing.”

He had no reason to doubt her at the time and she seemed very charming. Their relationship had effectively commenced.

Early the next morning Page Abernathy left the home of Lachlan Tedeschi to return to her home.

Dinner with Friend, Wesley Tunstall
Later that day Lachlan Tedeschi went to work as normal. After work he had dinner with his friend Wesley Tunstall, the nurse, and he told Wesley of what happened the previous evening.

Wesley said, “I have heard of Page Abernathy. She has quite an ability to draw attention to herself. Having a discreet relationship with her would be something of a contrast for her and a challenge for you both, I suspect. I am not surprised to hear her ‘my husband understands my affairs’ line, although it sounds a little cliched and I wonder how accurate that statement may be. Still time will tell, I guess, and ultimately it is a decision for you.”

Lachlan: “It is hard to argue with the cliched observation and as you say, time will tell as to the veracity of her contention in relation to her husband. If history is any guide, we will be discussing this relationship and Page Abernathy from time to time, so we will probably be able to judge the extent to which you are correct.”

Wesley: “I may take a keener interest in the public life of Page Abernathy, now that you have shared your news with me.”

The rest of the evening was uneventful for Lachlan and Wesley and after about another hour, the dinner ended and they each went to their respective homes.

May 2014 Herbert Strauss Appears On The Scene
Page Abernathy and Lachlan Tedeschi spent quite a bit of time together over the next two (2) years, mostly at their respective houses, but sometimes venturing into public together. Because he had spent so much time at her house, Lachlan became quite familiar with it, including where Page kept her diary.

By May 2014 Lachlan noticed something a little unusual in the behaviour of Page Abernathy. The most obvious change was that she spent less time with him than she had done in the preceding months. That behaviour change was due to the arrival of Herbert Strauss on the scene, but Lachlan did not learn of his presence until many months later.

Page Abernathy was not only having an affair with Herbert Strauss, she was also recording significant intimate details of that affair in her diary.

Lachlan was still keeping in touch with Wesley Tunstall and from time to time they would meet to socialise. Discussion of the relationship between Lachlan and Page Abernathy was part of their interaction. Wesley gradually got a clear sense that all was not as well as it could be between Lachlan and Page.

December 2014
By December 2014 Lachlan Tedeschi had a very strong suspicion that Page Abernathy was seeing someone in addition to him and he expressed his concerns to Wesley Tunstall. The diary of Page Abernathy was a part of their discussion by that stage and whether it may contain any details of this possible new man.

Wesley Tunstall: “If you are going to read her diary, you would best do it in circumstances where she is not likely to catch you doing it. I would wait until she is out of the house, if that is possible.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “I still get invited to her house from time to time, so I will see if any such opportunity arises.”

January 2015
Early January 2015, while Page was out of her house, Lachlan read the diary she kept in her bedside drawers. He discovered entries confirming that Page had been having an adulterous affair with Herbert Strauss.  Lachlan took photographs of the diary entries which described the relationship Page was having with Herbert Strauss in lurid detail.

Once he had taken photographs of the diary entries, he contacted Wesley Tunstall and arranged to meet with him almost immediately. They had a discussion about what Lachlan had discovered and Wesley convinced Lachlan to provide a copy of the photographs to him.

Wesley Tunstall: “I am only telling to you what you have told to me on numerous occasions about controlling and preserving evidence.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “That is sound advice and I am glad you are giving it to me.”

Within ten (10) minutes Wesley had a copy of the subject photographs on his mobile telephone. That seemed to give some comfort to Lachlan.

Wesley could see that Lachlan was distressed by his discovery and he tried to comfort him, rather than further aggravate him. They stayed together for about ninety (90) minutes and when they parted to return to their respective homes, Lachlan seemed to be in better spirits.

Private Investigator
Wesley Tunstall could see the adverse effect the relationship revelation had upon Lachlan Tedeschi. He decided to take some action of his own and hire a private investigator to enquire into Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. Wesley had no intention of telling Lachlan of what he was doing, at that stage.

It did not take long for the private investigator to provide photographs to Wesley of the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. Once he had the photographs, Wesley discharged the services of the private investigator. He kept the photographs to himself and did not tell Lachlan of any of this activity or discovery.

January 2015
A little later in January 2015 Lachlan Tedeschi confronted Page Abernathy about her affair with Herbert Strauss. A heated argument ensued for several hours. Lachlan agreed to delete the images of the diary of Page, provided she delete the contact details of Herbert Strauss from her iPhone and iPad. The relationship between Page and Lachlan continued.

1 March 2015 - 2 March 2015
However, a few weeks later, on 1 March 2015, Lachlan discovered Page still had the contact details of Herbert Strauss. Lachlan then threatened to expose her affair with Strauss.

Lachlan challenged Page over the affair again saying: "I want to expose you both for what you have done. I have got enough evidence to do that."

After this argument, Page left the house of Lachlan in the early hours of 2 March 2015. Page formed the view that Lachlan did not delete every photo of the diary and had evidence to damage both herself and Herbert Strauss.

Once again Lachlan contacted Wesley Tunstall and told him what had happened with Page Abernathy. Wesley could see that Lachlan was very distressed and he did not wish to distress him further. He did not tell Lachlan about the private investigator and the photographs of the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. Wesley thought it best to do that at another time.

After about two (2) hours Lachlan Tedeschi left Wesley Tunstall to go home, seemingly in a better frame of mind.

Legal Action
Page Abernathy started legal action in her local Supreme Court to obtain an interim injunction and gagging order under the Human Rights Act. She sought a ban on the publication of the diary entries to prevent Lachlan Tedeschi from leaking details to the media of her affair with Herbert Strauss.

The application of Page Abernathy proceeded in the absence of both Lachlan Tedeschi and Herbert Strauss.

Page Abernathy argued that

  • The potential damage which could be done, both to her, as a public figure of trust, and to Herbert Strauss, as a public figure who is married to someone else, is enormous
  • If the documents stolen from Page Abernathy and her affair with Herbert Strauss were shared or published in the public domain, “both she and Herbert Strauss would be irreparably damaged, and there would be enormous financial repercussions for both of them”
  • Herbert Strauss is unaware of the present situation
  • She feared it would “tip off” Lachlan Tedeschi and he would publish the diary entries before she could obtain a court order, if she were to notify him of her application for an injunction.

Sitting in the Supreme Court Justice Baldwin-Taylor granted the interim injunction sought by Page Abernathy.

Justice Baldwin-Taylor

  • The hearing was allowed to proceed without Lachlan Tedeschi being present
  • The fears Lachlan Tedeschi would rush publication of the diary entries before it was possible for Page Abernathy to gain the injunction were well founded
  • The right to respect for her private life of Page Abernathy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights outweighed the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 in publishing that private life
  • On the evidence the reasons for publication are motivated by malice entertained by the defendant Lachlan Tedeschi towards the claimant Page Abernathy

Service of The Court Orders
Within a very short time of the Court granting the interim injunction and gag order that Page Abernathy sought, both Lachlan Tedeschi and Herbert Strauss were respectively served with a copy of the orders.

Lachlan was astounded when he read the orders and he contacted Wesley Tunstall almost immediately. Wesley was not working and they agreed to meet about forty (40) minutes later. Wesley took the photographs the private investigator took of Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss to that meeting.

When they met Wesley could see that Lachlan was distressed and angry. Wesley tried to stay calm and reduce the aggravation of Lachlan, if possible. Wesley was doing his best to remember the advice he had heard Lachlan give on a number of previous occasions.

Wesley Tunstall: “I still have a copy of the photograph you gave me in January 2015. As far as I know, no one knows I have them at this stage and there is no reason for that situation to change. I am well aware that you want to reveal the affair between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss, but you do not wish to put yourself in a position where you will breach the Court order. I may be able to assist you in that regard.”

“After we met in January 2015 I hired a private investigator to investigate the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss. It did not take him long for him to provide photographs to me of their relationship. Once I had the photographs, I discharged the services of the private investigator. I kept the photographs to myself and did not tell you of any of this activity or discovery, because I did not want to distress you further.”

“The significance of this is that you now have independent evidence of the relationship between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss and that evidence can be released to the media, seemingly without breaching the court orders.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “At the very least it seems you have paid attention to what I have said from time to time over the years.”

Wesley Tunstall: “It is also worth considering whether my releasing the material to the media might be a better strategy in the circumstances.”

Lachlan Tedeschi: “That is very well done, Wesley Tunstall.”

The Next Day
The next day multiple media outlets ran with a double story: a report on the Court case which revealed no identities of anyone involved; followed by a revelation of the affair between Page Abernathy and Herbert Strauss, accompanied by the independent photographs of them taken by the private investigator.

1 This story is loosely based on the case CHS -v- DNH [2015] EWHC 1214 (Ch)