By Tita Smith For Daily Mail Australia and Lauren Ferri For Nca Newswire
04:13 29 Sep 2023, updated 04:41 29 Sep 2023
- Star cricketer found not guilty of sexual assault charge
- He was accused of ‘stealthing’ a Tinder date during World Cup
- He paid tribute to his new girlfriend outside court on Thursday
- Do you know more? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sri Lankan international cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has thanked his new girlfriend for standing by his side after he was found not guilty of sexual assault without consent.
Danushka Gunathilaka learned his fate on Thursday after being stuck in Australia for almost a year fighting allegations he had non-consensual sex with a Tinder date in November last year while he was in Australia playing in the T20 World Cup.
The woman alleged that she had agreed to protected sex but claimed Gunathilaka had secretly removed the condom against her will. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.
After NSW District Court Judge Sarah Huggett reached a verdict on Thursday, Gunathilaka fronted media to share his appreciation for those who have supported him in the case.
During his speech, he made a special mention of his legal counsel Murugan Thangaraj SC and to his girlfriend, Celine, who has accompanied him to court, holding his hand, in recent weeks.
‘I just want to thank people who have helped me during this sad time,’ he told reporters.
‘The last 11 months have been really hard for me and especially for my lawyers, my manager, Celine and my parents and a few other people back in Sri Lanka.
‘Everyone believed me and that means a lot to me. I’m happy that my life is normal again, so I can’t wait to go back and play cricket.’
Judge Sarah Huggett heard four days of evidence, including from the alleged victim who said the cricketer was ‘forceful’ and ‘aggressive’.
The pair chatted several times through Tinder, Instagram and video called on WhatsApp from October 31 before meeting three days later.
CCTV footage played to the court shows the pair hugging as they meet and kissing while waiting for a ferry back to the woman’s home at about 11pm.
Judge Sarah Huggett found while Gunathilaka told the woman he preferred not to wear a condom, he used one during the encounter and had consensual sex with the woman.
After playing guitar and kissing on the couch, the pair moved to the bedroom where the woman, who gave evidence via an audio-visual link, told the court she asked Gunathilaka to use a condom but he allegedly said he ‘didn’t like them’.
According to the woman’s evidence, Gunathilaka said: ‘Don’t worry I don’t get you pregnant darling, don’t you trust me?’
‘I remember him saying that he hated them, he said something like “I hate using condoms, I don’t like them, it doesn’t feel good you should trust me”,’ the woman told the court.
During his interview with police days later, Gunathilaka admitted he preferred to have sex without a condom, but denied telling the woman he did not want to use one with her.
He said: ‘I just said “normally I don’t like to have sex with condoms”, I didn’t say “I don’t want to have sex without a condom”.’
The woman told the court that immediately after having sex, Gunathilaka stood up from the bed and she thought he did not have a condom on.
However Judge Huggett found the woman’s version of events were not accurate and the cricketer had used a condom during sex.
Gunathilaka was arrested in the early hours of November 6 at the Hyatt Regency hotel and taken to Day Street Police Station where he answered questions for more than two hours.
The recorded interview shows the cricketer becoming emotional as he spoke about a spiritual conversation he had with the alleged victim where she said she had the power to ‘see the future’. He told police he was ‘interested’ as he was a Buddhist.
‘We were talking about religious things … she can see in a past life and we chatted about that kind of stuff,’ he said in the interview as he broke down in tears.
Gunathilaka told officers he asked the woman to tell him about his past life and she had said that they used to be neighbours in Thailand.
The cricketer told police he became scared and ‘got a feeling’ the woman was ‘a bit weird’, prompting him to leave. She ordered him a taxi.
He was asked if at any point he put his penis ‘into her without a condom on’.
‘No, no, definitely not,’ Gunathilaka replied.
Under cross-examination from Gunathilaka’s barrister, Mr Thangaraj, the woman denied claims she was the one to bring up the topic, and told the court it was the cricketer who said they knew each other in a past life.
Crown prosecutor Gabrielle Steedman told the court the victim’s evidence ‘must be accepted beyond a reasonable doubt’ and there was ‘no other rational inference other than the accused removed his condom’.
She argued the cricketer was rough and did not ‘care or respect’ the woman’s requests or boundaries, and Mr Gunathilaka ‘pursued the woman quite relentlessly’.
Mr Thangaraj argued the alleged victim provided a narrative that had ‘morphed’ and ‘shaped to fit the allegation’.
He claimed the woman gave false and self-serving evidence throughout in court as well as in her two statements to police.
‘She does not remember matters inconsistent with her narrative on many occasions,’ he said.
The main issue in the trial was Mr Gunathilaka’s state of mind as to whether or not he removed the condom without the woman’s knowledge, which is known as stealthing.
A week after the trial ended, Judge Huggett on Thursday did not agree with the Crown case and found Gunathilaka did not remove the condom during intercourse.
He was declared not guilty and is free to return to his hometown of Colombo in Sri Lanka.
The Post The new girlfriend who wouldn’t let go of Danushka Gunathilaka’s hand Originally Posted on www.dailymail.co.uk