Craig Kelly staffer Frank Zumbo urged young female employee to ‘let me into your life’, court hears

The former federal MP Craig Kelly’s office manager scolded a young female employee for posting a photo to social media that he felt drew attention to her breasts after she had told him she was not interested in him romantically, a Sydney court has heard.

The trial of Francesco “Frank” Zumbo, 55, has also continued to hear covert recordings in which he chastised the young woman – in her early 20s at the time – for not inviting him to her university graduation ceremony and for refusing his request to follow her on Instagram.

The recordings also captured Zumbo referring to Kelly as “absent-minded”, “bumbling” and “simple”. In an earlier hearing, sections of the audio recordings included Zumbo calling Kelly the “worst example” of a politician.

Zumbo is facing 20 charges, including sexual touching and indecent assault, linked to accusations by five women between 2014 and 2020. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges with his defence lawyers arguing he tried to create a collegial atmosphere and none of the alleged sexual contact occurred.

The third alleged victim met Zumbo when she was a student in his class at the University of New South Wales, and was invited to volunteer with Kelly prior to the 2013 election before being offered paid employment in his office. She continued giving evidence on Tuesday at Downing Centre local court.

She began giving evidence on Friday, when audio recordings were played which had captured the pair discussing the woman’s refusal to kiss Zumbo – something he had requested after giving her gift cards and taking her out for dinner for her birthday – as well as his follow-up requests for a kiss on the cheek and hugs.

Zumbo drove her to and from the office each day she worked, and she made the audio recordings – some of them several hours long while they continued talking when the car was parked – without his consent.

On Tuesday the court heard that the woman would take a jacket to work during warmer months when she was wearing a skirt, so she could put it over her legs during the car rides because Zumbo “would grab my legs”. “Do you really need it in the car?” Zumbo can be heard asking in one recording.

The court also heard a recording in which Zumbo criticised the young woman for turning off “read” receipts on her phone messages, before he scolded her over an image of herself “in an absolutely fantastic dress” she had uploaded to Facebook.

Zumbo complained to her that her friends had added comments to the photo about her breasts shortly after it was uploaded, and that she had not removed the photo when he asked her to take it down in the early hours of the following morning.

The young woman claimed her friends were making a joke and that she did not want to remove the photo. When the two later discussed the incident in person, the young woman told Zumbo that contacting her at 2am about the image had “ruined my night” and that she was unable to sleep. Zumbo replied that her refusing to delete the photo had ruined his night.

“If I’m not entitled to an answer at 2am in the morning, when you’re up and about,” Zumbo complained, according to recordings. “So you show off your tits, is that it? Well show them off.”

Zumbo claimed the photo reflected on Kelly’s office.

Tuesday’s proceedings began with audio recordings in which Zumbo urged the woman to “let me into your life” by letting him attend her graduation ceremony the following year and allowing him to follow her on Instagram.

“If I’m not at that milestone then I’m not part of your life,” he said. “Once again I don’t know what level of experience you’ve had with males … with guys that like you,” he said. “I think you’re a bit inexperienced dealing with guys.”

The woman said: “I don’t want to talk about my past relationships”. Zumbo then said: “Now we’re treading on dangerous territory.

“You’ve made it clear you don’t want me … you made it very clear.

“I’m the guy that took you from the quadrangle and for two years non-stop has devoted a considerable amount of time to you … that alone should have got me the respect of (your) Instagram,” he told her.

“I don’t know why you’re scared to let me in … I’ve never wanted to take advantage of you.

“I love you very much and I want to spend time with you, I want to share your life,” Zumbo said, adding he “could make you a member of parliament, I could open doors for you”.

Zumbo told the woman “maybe there’s something in the adage ‘treat ’em mean keep, ’em keen’”. While he said he didn’t behave this way, he suggested the woman might be in the manner she continually rebuffed him.

“You want all the benefits of what I can offer you … and you sort of give me bits back, bits, crumbs even.” Zumbo then called her a “tortoise”. “You don’t let me into your shell … you don’t make me feel special,” he said.

He then said she was a physically attractive person with a good sense of humour but had one “missing ingredient”. “You don’t make people feel special.”

The special fixture trial continues and was slated to finish by Friday, however on Tuesday afternoon, the magistrate, Gareth Christofi, appeared to indicate more time could be needed given the current progress.

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