Masseuse Leanne Russell has told a Sydney court it was a “horrific” experience and she cried uncontrollably after West Indies star batsman Chris Gayle pulled his towel up to expose his penis.
“I saw the top half of his penis, I apologise,” Russell said. “Thereafter I shielded my eyes.”
Russell said she ran up to the stand, where she sat for two-and-a-half hours and cried because the day before another player, Dwayne Smith, had sent her a text saying “sexy”.
“I was very upset that a team that I had known for so long would treat me that way.”
Russell is the star witness in the defamation case against Fairfax Media by the international cricketer. Gayle has attended each day and was in court with his legal team to watch Russell’s emotional testimony before a packed court.
Russell said the exposure of his penis came after she walked into the dressing room to get some lunch at Drummoyne Oval in 2015 when she was the team masseuse.
“Chris asked me what I was looking for,” she said. “I said, ‘A towel’. And he said, ‘Are you looking for this?’ I saw the top half of Chris’s penis and I shielded my eyes and left the room. I said ‘No’ and I walked out.”
Russell indicated to the jury that she lifted her hand up to shield her eyes.
“I hadn’t eaten that day and the catering was in the change room,” she said.
Russell explained she told Gayle she was looking for a towel and not food because she did not want to discuss food.
Russell said she went up to the stand and she cried.
“Horrific. I was very upset,” she said. “I was crying uncontrollably. I was crying like a child.
“I was upset because of what Chris had done because I’d known him for 10 years.”
She said “jokes like that meant nothing to him” but were very upsetting.
“I remember being upset,” Russell said. “I was sick of being treated that way. I was someone who had forged my career in sport. I would never be as successful as I would be if I was a man.”
Russell said she went to JB Hi-Fi and bought a Samsung tablet because she was determined to keep a diary. She said she kept to herself that night and made her first diary note.
The next day, on 12 February, Russell said she got the bus to the SCG and set up the massage table and waited outside.
“I was approached by the team manager, Richie Richardson,” she said.
The afternoon session was filled with cross-examination of the masseuse, during which her private messages with friends were read out.
In a private Facebook message with a friend in February 2015, Russell wrote: “Gayle is a lazy-assed mother f…er. Does no work or prep.”
“You’re not a wilting violet unable to say ‘F…k, a…hole and motherf…r’ are you?” Gayle’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, said to Russell.
In another message from Russell to her friend, she said “I told them all to f…k off with their late night texts,” in reference to the West Indies players.
McClintock suggested Russell “hatched up a plot” to frame Gayle, which she denied.
He said that in her “obscene” Facebook conversation with a friend, Russell did not reference the Chris Gayle incident that would have happened a few days earlier. She talked about the players but made no mention that Gayle flashed her.
Russell told the Age last year that Gayle exposed himself to her and made a lewd remark while she was working for the West Indies team. Her anonymous story led to several other stories published in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Canberra Times in January 2016.
Russell told the court she spoke out about the incident in the wake of Gayle’s famous “don’t blush baby” interview with sports reporter Mel McLaughlin because she was “furious that women who work hard in this industry are made to feel that way both on camera and in a change room”.
“People like Chris get to decide if we’re successful or not. I was extremely upset,” Russell said.
The court heard that the West Indies team received an email from team operations manager Sir Richie Richardson on February 12, 2015, saying Russell had “encountered a few uncomfortable situations with members of the team” and reminded them to treat her with respect. Gayle gave evidence on Monday that he did not believe Richardson’s caution referred to him.
Gayle took legal action against Fairfax Media for the publication of the offending articles, which he said were untrue and malicious.