Account given of effect on Gayle post allegations

(CNS) – West Indies star batsman Chris Gayle became “very reserved and scared” in public around women after Fairfax published reports alleging he exposed himself to a female massage therapist in a Sydney dressing room, a court heard on Thursday.

The West Indies player is suing Fairfax Media for defamation over a series of articles published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times between January 6 and January 9 last year that alleged he exposed himself to a team massage therapist during the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

The woman at the centre of the stories, massage therapist Leanne Russell gave evidence yesterday that she “cried uncontrollably” after the incident during the Cricket World Cup on February 11, 2015.

“I saw the top half of Chris’ penis, I apologise, and I thereafter shielded my view,” Ms Russell told the court.

Gayle gave evidence on Monday that the incident did not happen and “this is one case I have to fight”.

Gayle’s long-time friend, UK-based cricket coach Donovan Miller, gave character evidence for the cricketer today.

He said that since Fairfax had published the articles Gayle had become “very reserved and scared” in public places such as bars, “especially [around] females”.

Miller said Gayle “always feels like someone is out to get him”.

“You can see that the incident has affected him a lot,” he said.

“You look in his eyes and you can see he’s really hurting about it.”

Miller said he helped Gayle set up the Chris Gayle Foundation, which works with the charity Cricket for Change to help disadvantaged youth.

“I’m a big believer in helping young people,” Miller said.

“We needed someone like Chris with a big reputation; a big figurehead.

“Everyone loves him. He spends a lot of time … with the fans.”

Earlier today, New Zealand massage therapist Julie Bland gave evidence that she met Russell in March 2015 at a cricket match at Wellington Stadium.

“We crossed paths in the players’ tunnel,” Bland said.

She said Russell told her “she’d had an incident with Chris Gayle in the changing room. He’d had a towel around him and he’d dropped his towel and said ‘is this what you’re looking for?’”

Bland said she was “pretty shocked; I probably said holy bejeebus.”

“I think I said I was pretty lucky I didn’t have to, excuse my language, put up with that kind of s—”.

Bruce McClintock, SC, for Gayle, produced a Facebook message from mid-2016 in which Bland described Gayle as an arse.

“Do you think he’s an arse?” McClintock said.

“That depends. No, I don’t know Chris Gayle,” she replied.

She rejected suggestions she was giving evidence in the case because she disliked the cricketer.

The evidence in the trial concluded today and Fairfax Media’s barrister, Matthew Collins, QC, delivered his closing address to the jury.

He said it was “impossible not to be moved yesterday when Ms Russell gave her evidence” and she had bared her soul to the jury.

“You have the best seats in the house in this courtroom. Raw, honest and candid emotion [came] flooding out from Ms Russell,” Dr Collins said.

Dr Collins said Gayle’s legal team had “tried to discredit Ms Russell in every way imaginable” but her evidence was “the story of a victim” and she had “no motive … other than to tell you the truth about what happened to her”.

Mr McClintock began his opening address to the jury by saying the “evidence in favour of Mr Gayle is completely compelling”.

He also took aim at Ms Russell, who admitted she has suffered from anorexia, by saying she was apparently “so mentally fragile” she could not tell Gayle she was looking for a sandwich in the team dressing room.

Russell gave evidence yesterday she had told Gayle before the incident that she was looking for a towel because she avoided talking about food.

“There’s still something very, very odd about that,” McClintock said.

The jury is expected to begin their deliberations on Friday, after Mr McClintock finishes his closing address and Justice Lucy McCallum delivers her summing up. 

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