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* Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka found not guilty of sexual assault in Sydney
Thu, Sep 28, 2023, 09:17 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Sept 28, Colombo: Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka who was accused of sexual assault of a woman while in Australia for the T20 World Cup has been found not guilty by a Sydney court.

Judge Sarah Huggett found the 32-year-old not guilty of the sexual intercourse without consent through the act of "stealthing involving a Tinder date in Sydney, Australia.

"The evidence establishes that there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during intercourse because that intercourse was continuous," the judge said in handing down the verdict at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Thursday.

Judge Huggett found that the alleged victim, who cannot be legally named, was an intelligent witness who did not deliberately give false evidence but was motivated by a desire to paint the cricketer in an unfavorable light.

"I find that the evidence regarding the complaint far from supports the complainant. Rather it undermines the reliability of her evidence," she said.

Gunathilaka and the woman matched on the dating app and met for drinks at Opera Bar in November 2022 before having pizza together in the Sydney CBD and then catching a ferry to the woman’s eastern suburbs home.

The woman accused him of various acts of aggression and violence such as slapping her on the buttocks, forcefully kissing her and bruising her lips, and choking her during sex so hard she feared for her life.

Police initially brought four charges against the 32-year-old, who was arrested at the Hyatt Regency hours before the Sri Lankan cricket team was due to fly out of the country. Prosecutors later dropped three of those charges.

Mr Gunathilaka denied the allegations and always maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent relating to the cricketer’s alleged "stealthing", or removing his condom during sex without the woman’s consent.

During the judge-alone trial, his defense counsel attacked the credibility of the woman arguing that she had lied and changed her story over time. Defense lawyers claimed that she edited her version of events to paint Gunathilaka as an aggressive person.

In her decision, Judge Huggett found Mr Gunathilaka had told police the truth when he said he had not removed the condom during sex. The cricketer had "answered every question asked of him" by police, she said, and had left her with the "distinct impression he was doing his best to be truthful".

"There is no reason at all to reject or disbelieve what he said in that interview," she told the court.

The complainant, on the other hand, had given two different accounts in her statements to police and did not have a "clear memory" of what happened, Ms Huggett found.

Huggett also heard evidence from two of the woman’s friends who described her as fragile and distraught the day after the cricketer attended her home.

Police officers who spoke to the woman were also grilled about the way they handled the case, including omitting crucial details, throwing out notes and potentially contaminating witnesses.

Gunathilaka has been on bail during the trial but was unable to play international cricket or return to his hometown of Colombo. (Source: 9News)


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