Danushka Gunathilaka’s girlfriend: Sri Lankan cricket star thanks woman who wouldn’t let go of his hand – after he was found not guilty of ‘stealthing’ his Tinder date
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 met his fate on Thursday after spending almost a year in custody in Australia on allegations that he had non-consensual sex with a Tinder date while he was in Australia playing in the T20 World Cup in November last year.
The woman claimed she had consented to protected sex, but claimed Gunathilaka had secretly removed the condom against her will. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
After NSW District Judge Sarah Huggett passed sentence on Thursday, Gunathilaka addressed the media to express his appreciation for those who supported him in the case.
During his speech, he made a special mention of his legal advisor Murugan Thangaraj SC and his girlfriend Celine, who accompanied him to court in recent weeks, holding his hand.
“I just want to thank the people who helped me during this sad time,” he told reporters.
Danushka Gunathilaka is photographed outside the court with his girlfriend on Thursday
‘The last eleven months have been very difficult for me and especially for my lawyers, my manager, Celine and my parents and a few other people in Sri Lanka.
‘Everyone believed me and that means a lot to me. I’m glad my life is back to normal so I can’t wait to start playing cricket again.”
Judge Sarah Huggett heard four days’ worth of evidence, including from the alleged victim who said the cricketer was ‘forceful’ and ‘aggressive’.
The 32-year-old batsman met the accuser at the Sydney Opera Bar on November 2 after a match on Tinder.
The pair chatted several times via Tinder, Instagram and video calling on WhatsApp from October 31 before meeting three days later.
CCTV footage played in court shows the couple embracing as they meet and kiss as they wait for the ferry back to the woman’s home at around 11pm.
Judge Sarah Huggett found that 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 sofa, the couple moved to the bedroom where the woman, who gave evidence via audiovisual link, told the court she asked Gunathilaka to use a condom but he allegedly said he she ‘didn’t like’. ‘.
His current girlfriend Celine has accompanied him to his court hearings in recent weeks
The court saw CCTV footage of the Sri Lankan cricket star with his Tinder date on the night of the alleged attack on November 2 last year (photo)
Gunathilaka (pictured while being interviewed by police) used a condom while having consensual sex with the woman, Judge Sarah Huggett found
According to the woman’s evidence, Gunathilaka said, “Don’t worry, I won’t make you pregnant, honey, don’t you trust me?”
“I remember him saying he hated them, he said something like, ‘I hate using condoms, I don’t like them, it doesn’t feel right that you have to trust me,'” the woman told the court.
During his interview with police days later, Gunathilaka admitted that 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 ‘I don’t normally like sex with condoms’, I didn’t say ‘I don’t want to have sex without a condom’.’
The woman told the court that Gunathilaka got up from bed immediately after sex and thought he was not wearing a condom.
However, Judge Huggett found that the woman’s version of events was incorrect and that the cricketer had used a condom during sex.
Gunathilaka was arrested at the Hyatt Regency hotel in the early hours of November 6 and taken to Day Street police station, where he answered questions for more than two hours.
The star player was in Sydney for the Cricket World Cup when he was accused of ‘stealing’ his Tinder date
The recorded interview shows the cricketer becoming emotional while talking about a spiritual conversation he had with the alleged victim, in which she said she had the power to ‘see the future’. He told police he was “interested” because he was a Buddhist.
“We were talking about religious things… that she can see in a past life and we talked about things like that,” he said in the interview as he broke down in tears.
Gunathilaka told officers that he asked the woman to tell him about his past life and she said they were neighbors in Thailand.
The cricketer told police he became scared and “got the feeling” the woman was “a bit strange”, prompting him to leave. She ordered a taxi for him.
He was asked if he had ever put his penis “in her without a condom.”
“No, no, certainly not,” Gunathilaka replied.
Under cross-examination by Gunathilaka’s lawyer, Mr Thangaraj, the woman denied that she was the one who raised the subject, telling the court that 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 reasonable doubt” and that there was “no rational inference other than that the suspect had removed his condom.”
She argued that 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 that the alleged victim told a story that had been ‘altered’ and ‘shaped to fit the allegation’.
He alleged that the woman had given false and self-serving evidence both in court and in her two statements to police.
“She often doesn’t remember things that don’t match her story,” he said.
The key 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 stealth.
A week after the trial ended, Judge Huggett disagreed with the Crown case on Thursday, ruling that Gunathilaka had not removed the condom during intercourse.
He was found not guilty and is free to return to his hometown of Colombo in Sri Lanka.