Danuskha Gunathilaka speaks to reporters outside court
Danuskha Gunathilaka said he was looking forward to playing cricket again following his acquittal. Image by Miklos Bolza/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

‘Can’t wait to play’: Sri Lankan batter cleared of rape

Miklos Bolza September 28, 2023

A Sri Lankan international cricketer stuck in Australia while accused of raping a woman he met on Tinder through the act of “stealthing” is looking forward to returning to the pitch after his acquittal.

Judge Sarah Huggett on Thursday found Danushka Gunathilaka not guilty as he sat with supporters in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court.

“The evidence establishes that there was no opportunity for the accused to remove the condom during intercourse because that intercourse was continuous,” she said in handing down the verdict.

“That (the woman) saw a used condom on the ground at some point after the act … is hardly surprising.”

After Gunathilaka, 32, and the woman matched on Tinder, they met for drinks at Opera Bar in November 2022 before having pizza together and catching a ferry to the woman’s eastern suburbs home.

Judge Huggett found the complainant, who cannot be legally named, appeared to be an intelligent, calm and responsive witness who did not deliberately give false evidence.

However, at times the woman gave the impression she was “motivated by a desire to paint the cricketer in an unfavourable light”, the judge said.

“I find that the evidence regarding the complaint far from supports the complainant. Rather it undermines the reliability of her evidence.”

The cricketer’s defence team signalled he will apply for the Crown to pay his legal costs of defending the allegation.

Outside court, Gunathilaka thanked his lawyers, parents and others who supported him during what he described as a very hard 11 months.

“I’m happy my life is normal again,” he said. 

“I can’t wait to go back and play cricket.”

Police initially brought four charges against Gunathilaka, 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.

In statements to police and the court, the woman accused the batsman of various acts of aggression and violence such as slapping her buttocks, forcefully kissing her and bruising her lips and choking her during sex.

There was no suggestion by prosecutors at trial that any of these acts constituted an offence, although the woman in her evidence said the sex was non-consensual.

Gunathilaka maintained his innocence, telling police after his arrest he did not remove his condom during sex and denied allegations he had been aggressive or forceful.

He pleaded not guilty in court to one count of sexual intercourse without consent relating to the alleged “stealthing”.

During the judge-alone trial, defence lawyers attacked the credibility of the complainant, claiming her story shifted over time and she edited her version of events to paint Gunathilaka as an aggressive person.

Judge Huggett 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.

Judge Huggett on Thursday described the conduct of police in prosecuting Gunathilaka as “very concerning” and “far from satisfactory”.

The cricketer was out on bail during the trial but has been unable to play international cricket or return to his home city of Colombo.

The matter will return to court on October 4.

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