Sri Lanka cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been cleared of the sexual assault charges by a Sydney court in November last year.
Danushka Gunathilaka Cleared of sexual assault trial
The Sri Lankan cricketer was arrested in November last year on the sidelines of the T20 World Cup in Australia after a woman accused him of sexual intercourse without consent.
Judge Sarah Huggett heard four days of evidence, including from the alleged victim who said the cricketer was “forceful” and “aggressive”. Gunathilaka pleaded not guilty and faced a four-day long trial in front of Judge Sarah Huggett in the Downing Centre District Court.
The 32-year-old batsman met up with the woman at Sydney’s Opera Bar on November 2 last year after matching on Tinder while Mr Gunathilaka was in Australia to play in the T20 World Cup.
It was not in dispute the pair had chatted several times through Tinder, Instagram and video calls on WhatsApp from October 31 before their 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 11 PM.
Judge Sarah Huggett found while Mr 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 the guitar and kissing on the couch, the pair moved to the bedroom where the woman, who gave evidence via AVL, told the court she asked Mr Gunathilaka to use a condom but he allegedly said he “didn’t like them”.
According to the woman’s evidence, Mr 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, Mr Gunathilaka admitted he preferred to have sex without a condom, but denied saying he didn’t want to use one with the woman.
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’.”
While the woman told the court Mr Gunathilaka stood up from the bed and she thought he didn’t have a condom on, Judge Huggett found the woman’s version of events were not accurate and the cricketer used a condom the entire time.
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. He said she told him 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 pe**s “into her without a condom on”.
“No, no, definitely not,” Mr Gunathilaka replied.
Under cross-examination from Mr Gunathilaka’s barrister, Murugan Thangaraj SC, 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.
Mr Thangaraj argued the alleged victim provided a narrative that had “morphed” and “shaped to fit the allegation”.
“The evidence establishes that there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom … because that intercourse was continuous,” Judge Huggett said during the verdict, noting that the cricketer had “answered every question asked of him” by the police and gave a “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,” the judge further told the court.
“(The complainant) did not strike me as a witness motivated by a desire to give deliberately false evidence. However, there were occasions when I formed the impression that some of her evidence had the appearance of being motivated by a desire to paint the accused in an unfavourable light.”
Gunathilaka, who is under suspension from all forms of cricket by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), is now free to return to Sri Lanka.
Following the order, Gunathilaka said that the last year has been really hard for him and he is more than happy to go back to normal life again.
“I think the judge’s verdict says everything. The last 11 months have been really hard for me. I’m happy that my life is normal again. So I can’t wait to go back and play cricket”, Gunathilaka said outside the court in Sydney.
“I’m happy that my life is normal again, so I can’t wait to go back and play cricket, I like to thank all those who believed me and supported me” Danushka Gunatilake @danushka_70 pic.twitter.com/9I81ViTw0U
— NewsWire 🇱🇰 (@NewsWireLK) September 28, 2023