A female massage therapist who claimed West Indian cricket star Chris Gayle flashed her in a change room has been described in court as “plainly neurotic”.
Leanne Russell came under attack by Gayle’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC who described her as “mentally fragile” because of her struggle with anorexia in his closing address at a defamation trial today.
Gayle is suing Fairfax over a series of articles published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times which claimed Gayle pulled down a towel partially exposing his penis to Russell in the change room at Drummoyne Oval during a training session for the 2015 World Cup.
Russell gave evidence that she walked into the change room looking for a sandwich and saw Gayle dressed in a T-shirt and a towel. She said teammate Dwayne Smith was also in the change room.
“He said, ‘what are you looking for?’ I said, ‘a towel’. He replied ‘are you looking for this?’ and pulled his towel out and down. I proceeded to shield my eyes and I said ‘no,’ and I exited the change room,” Russell said.
Gayle denied the allegations, saying the articles were “the most hurtful thing I have actually come across in my entire life”.
Smith supported Gayle, telling the court “I think that is something you would remember if it happened and it didn’t happen”.
McClintock told the jury the case was “not about sexual harassment”.
“It’s about whether a specific incident involving three people occurred on February 11, 2015. Two of the people said it didn’t, one person said it did.”
McClintock zeroed in on Russell’s discrepancy in her evidence that she was looking for a sandwich but told Gayle she was after a towel.
Russell had explained to the court that she had anorexia and it was a “kneejerk” reaction to avoid talking about food.
McClintock noted Russell’s mental illness to the jury describing her as “mentally fragile”, “plainly neurotic” and “bitter and vengeful”.
The trial heard Russell went public with her allegations the following year after seeing Gayle’s infamous sideline interview with sports journalist Mel McLaughlin when he told her “don’t blush baby”.
McClintock said Fairfax’s articles were malicious.
“They wanted to damage my client’s reputation and they certainly achieved that,” he said.
The four-person jury of three women and one man are expected to retire on Monday to deliberate.