Australian TV, Stage Star Craig McLachlan Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations

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Craig McLachlan as Frank N Furter in an Australian production of 'The Rocky Horror Show'

Complaints by two female co-stars in a stage production of 'The Rocky Horror Show' are being investigated by local police.

Former Neighbours star Craig McLachlan has been forced to stand aside from his role as Frank N Furter in an Australian stage production of The Rocky Horror Show after allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and indecent assault by three female co-stars were published Monday.

Police in the Australian state of Victoria are reportedly investigating the claims from two of the women, which stem from a 2014 production of the raunchy musical by the Gordon Frost Organization.

At the same time, TV production company December Media said it was halting preproduction of its top-rated local drama The Doctor Blake Mysteries, which stars McLachlan and which is scheduled to air on commercial broadcaster Seven Network this year.

According to Fairfax Media, which broke the story of the allegations in a joint investigation with the Australian Broadcasting Corp, two Rocky Horror Show castmembers have lodged a complaint with Victoria Police, alleging that a number of actresses in the show were subjected to McLachlan touching their genitals, groping their breasts, exposing himself and pressing his penis against them on and off stage.

"He's really calculated and very manipulative, a predator," Erika Heynatz, one of the complainants, said. 

McLachlan, 52, who rose to fame as Kylie Minogue's brother in Australian soap Neighbours, has denied the accusations, saying in an email to Fairfax Media that they are "baseless" and "they seem to be simple inventions, perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety."

"These allegations are ALL made up," he said in an emailed response.

The Gordon Frost Organization said separately that it was shocked to learn of the allegations and Monday mutually agreed with McLachlan that it was not appropriate for him to continue in the current production of the show.

“We will be conducting a full internal investigation and will cooperate fully with authorities," the statement said, adding that the company “was not aware of any details of these allegations until they were published in the media today. We received correspondence from a law firm shortly before Christmas however this contained no details of the claims or the claimants."

"We can also confirm that our records show the claimants at no time made any complaint — formal or informal — to the company manager or executive producer of the Rocky Horror Show in 2014. Furthermore no one at GFO recalls any verbal discussion of this nature. It would be distressing to us if anyone within our company was dismissive of sexual [harassment] allegations, and this will form a part of our internal investigation."

December Media, producer of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, on Monday said it was halting preproduction of the sixth season "to allow due process" following the allegations against McLachlan.

"Throughout the six years of production of Doctor Blake it has not only been an enormously popular show on air but popular with cast and crew who come back to work on the series year after year," the company said. "Craig has been central to this success both in front of camera and on set. It is not appropriate for December to respond to the allegations about Craig McLachlan's behavior in relation to another production he has appeared in."

The statement added: "We do not tolerate any form of behavior, which makes anyone feel threatened or uncomfortable for whatever reason in the workplace."

The Doctor Blake Mysteries aired on Australian public broadcaster ABC, where it was its top drama for several years. The ABC did not renew the series for a sixth season but the show was picked up by Seven Network. McLachlan also recently starred in Network Ten drama The Wrong Girl. Both Ten and the ABC said they had not received any complaints of inappropriate behavior by McLachlan.

McLachlan is the third high-profile Australian star to be the subject of allegations of inappropriate behavior. Don Burke, producer and presenter of former top rating lifestyle show Burke's Backyard has been accused of bullying and harassment. Geoffrey Rush, meanwhile, is taking defamation action against News Corp tabloid Daily Telegraph, which published accusations against the Oscar winner during a Sydney Theater Company production of King Lear; Rush has denied the allegations.