Sri Lankan cricketer not guilty of sexual assault

Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE: Monique Harmer

Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka says he is looking forward to resuming his playing career after a Sydney judge acquitted him of sexual assault.

After facing a judge-alone trial in the Downing Centre District Court, Mr Gunathilaka was on Thursday found not guilty of one count of sexual intercourse without consent relating to an allegation that he had removed a condom without a woman’s knowledge during sex.

After pleading not guilty, he did not react as Judge Sarah Huggett read out her verdict, and he hugged and kissed a woman who has supported him throughout the trial.

“I think the judge’s verdict says everything,” he said outside court, thanking his family, lawyers, manager and supporters.

He added: “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.”

Judge Huggett heard four days of evidence, including from the complainant who said the cricketer was “forceful” and “aggressive” during consensual sex at her unit in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

She said during her judgment on Thursday there was “no opportunity” to remove the condom “because that intercourse was continuous”.

Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka will be able to return home after he was found not guilty of sexual assault. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
The cricketer said he was looking forward to returning to playing. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

Judge Huggett described the complainant as an “intelligent” and “calm and responsive” witness.

“She did not strike me as a witness motivated by a desire to give deliberately false evidence,” Judge Huggett said.

“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.”

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 called on WhatsApp from October 31 before their meeting three days later.

SSri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been found not guilty of sexual assault.. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

CCTV footage played to the court showed the pair hugging as they met and kissing while waiting for a ferry back to the woman’s home about 11pm.

After playing 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?”

Danushka Gunathilaka during his police interview. Picture: NSW District Court
Danushka Gunathilaka during his police interview. Picture: NSW District Court
Mr Gunathilaka has spent 11 months unable to leave Australia as he fought the charges. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

“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’.”

Judge Huggett said the complainant did not give evidence about seeing him pause or throw the condom on the ground.

“She said she saw what the accused’s hands were doing during the intercourse and did not see him move his hands towards his penis, nor move his arm or hand as if throwing something to the floor,” Judge Huggett said.

She added it was “hardly surprising on any account a used condom was removed”.

The cricketer turned up to every day of his trial with a blonde woman, who is not the complainant. Photo by: NCA Newswire/ Gaye Gerard

Judge Huggett described aspects of the police’s handling of the woman’s complaint as “deeply troubling”

“Aspects of the handling of her complaint were far from satisfactory and to be frank, very concerning,” she said.

In particular said that notes taken by officers during the woman’s first interview with police “make no record of an offence of stealthing”.

She also said that “for no good reason at all, those notes were destroyed.”

The international cricketer's police interview, in which he becomes emotional when talking about religion, was played during his sexual assault trial.

Mr Gunathilaka was arrested in the early hours of November 6 at the Hyatt Regency and taken to Day Street Police Station where he answered questions for more than two hours.

During his recorded interview, the cricketer became 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 is seen on CCTV heading home on a ferry with the woman.
The cricketer is seen on CCTV heading home on a ferry with the woman. Picture: NSW District Court

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,” Mr Gunathilaka replied.

After Mr Gunathilaka was found not guilty on Thursday, he is free to return to his hometown of Colombo in Sri Lanka.

The court heard he will make an application to pay his legal costs.

He will return to court on October 4 as he attempts to recoup his lawyer’s fees.