British cave diver felt 'dirtied' by Elon Musk's 'pedo guy' tweet

5 December 2019, 04:59

Elon Musk arrives in court
Elon Musk arrives in court. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The British cave diver branded "sus" and "pedo guy" by tech billionaire Elon Musk was left feeling "humiliated, ashamed, dirtied," a court has heard.

Musk took the stand in a court in Los Angeles on Tuesday defending himself against claims of defamation following a spat which occurred on social media and in the press.

Vernon Unsworth is suing the co-founder of Tesla for defamation after the billionaire tweeted that he was a "pedo" following the 2018 Thai cave rescue.

On Tuesday Mr Musk told the court his comments had been misrepresented, he said: "Calling someone a 'pedo guy' just means creepy."

The row started after Mr Unsworth, who helped with the perilous underwater mission, dismissed Mr Musk's offer of aid as a publicity stunt.

Mr Musk later referred to him as a "child rapist" in an email to a reporter.

A defamation trial began in Los Angeles on Tuesday, bringing Mr Musk and Mr Unsworth face-to-face inside a federal court.

Vernon Unsworth's voice cracked as he gave evidence in his defamation case against Mr Musk.

Mr Unsworth, who divides his time between London and Thailand, gave evidence at a Los Angeles court on Wednesday and appeared on the verge of tears while describing the impact of Mr Musk's tweets.

Asked how he felt after seeing Mr Musk's tweeted, he replied: "It feels very raw. I feel humiliated. Ashamed. Dirtied.

"From day one I was given a life sentence without parole. And at times I feel very vulnerable, it hurts to even talk about it.

"I feel very vulnerable. Especially when I'm in the UK. I feel sometimes very isolated. I have tried to deal with it on my own but I bottled it up."

Mr Unsworth, a veteran cave explorer who said he first travelled to Thailand in 2011, added Mr Musk's tweet was "very hurtful".

"I find it disgusting," he said. "I find it very hard to even read the word, never mind talk about."

Mr Unsworth was then asked about a follow-up tweet from Musk, in which he said words to the effect of "Don't you think it's strange he hasn't sued me?"

Mr Unsworth said he was "obviously" aware of the post, and asked what it meant, replied: "If I did not (sue) it must be true. Which it is not."

The British diver said his name is "tagged with being a paedophile".

Discussing the impact of the tweets, he said: "I have probably lost a bit of self-confidence. I have good days and bad days."

"I still feel dirtied," he added.

The trial continues.