Fighting back tears of emotion, cave rescue hero Vernon Unsworth told a Los Angeles court that he felt ‘raw, humiliated, ashamed and dirtied’ when Elon Musk called him a ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter.
Unsworth said: ‘I took it to mean I was being branded a pedophile.
‘It felt disgusting….Effectively I was given a life sentence without parole. I felt vulnerable and isolated. It hurts to talk about it.’
Unsworth – wearing a dark jacket and pink shirt and tie as he gave evidence during his defamation action against Musk – told the court Wednesday that he felt so hurt by Musk’s insult that he almost didn’t go to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony where the Queen presented him and his fellow UK rescuers with the MBE (Member of the British Empire).
Asked about a later Musk tweet in which the billionaire said: ‘Don’t you think it’s strange he (Unsworth) hasn’t sued me’ over the ‘pedo guy’ accusation, Unsworth said: ‘It felt very hurtful…disgusting. I felt like he (Musk) felt like it must be true – which it isn’t.
‘I have probably lost a bit of confidence. I have good days and bad days. I still feel humiliated and ashamed.’
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Courtroom sketch shows British cave diver Vernon Unsworth in court on Wednesday
Elon Musk is seen above in a courtroom sketch during the trial in a defamation case filed by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth
Unsworth added that it ‘hurts’ to think of the possible affect Musk’s ‘pedo guy’ remark has had on his English wife Vanessa – from whom he separated in 1993 – and his daughter Danielle, 24.
Unsworth defended his CNN Interview in which he criticized Musk’s mini submarine plan – remarks that prompted the wealthy entrepreneur to lash back with his ‘pedo guy’ tweet.
Musk’s submarine ‘would not have made it 50 yards into the cave,’ he told the court.
‘From the video I had seen (of the sub being tested in a pool), in my assessment it was just not practical for the cave system.’
Unsworth also countered Musk’s claim that he lies about the electric car maker and his team being ‘thrown out’ of the cave.
‘It was what I heard generally around the cave system and there was an order that the only people allowed into the cave were rescuers.’
Unsworth – who has been a cave exploring enthusiast for almost 50 years – told the court that although he has been a consultant and adviser on three books and two documentaries about the dramatic rescue of the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, he has only made ‘about $3,000’ from these projects.
Elon Musk arrives in court for the second day of his defamation trial against a British diver who he called a ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter
Musk took the stand for six hours on Tuesday. He was expected to testify again on Wednesday
Earlier in the day the court heard how the Tesla boss hired a private investigator to look into Unsworth’s background.
The investigator was offered a bonus of $10,000 if he could come up with evidence of ‘nefarious behavior’ in the British diver’s lifestyle in Thailand.
After Unsworth filed a defamation suit against Musk over his ‘pedo guy’ tweet, the world famous entrepreneur’s family office manager, Jared Birchall, hired PI James Howard – who claimed to have been in UK Special Forces and to have worked for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – to look into Unsworth’s past.
Birchall – who admitted in court that he did not verify Howard’s credentials before hiring him – said he used a pseudonym, James Brickhouse, in his emails with Howard to provide distance between the investigator and Musk.
Howard – who was paid a fee of $52,000 to come up with a profile of Unsworth’s life in Thailand – reported back to Birchall who told him that he should leak information to the British press based on the following bullet points that Brit journalists could investigate further:
Thailand is the world capital of pedophilia.
Unsworth had frequented Thailand since the 1980s, leading to his divorce from his wife in the UK.
He went to Thailand frequently under the ‘guise’ of caving expeditions.
His second wife is 30 years is junior and when he met her she was a minor.
British diver Vernon Unsworth arrives in court in L.A. on Wednesday for the second day of their trial
She was not the first teenager he interacted with.
Telling Howard, ‘That should be enough for a story’ Birchall confirmed under cross examination at the Federal Court in downtown Los Angeles, that he told Howard he would get a bonus of $10,000 ‘upon successful confirmation of nefarious behavior on the part of Mr. Unsworth.’
And when Howard couldn’t produce such information, Birchall said he told him, ‘You have given us just about nothing.’
According to Unsworth’s attorney, Lin Wood, Howard also reported back to Birchall was that Unsworth had married a 12-year-old girl in Thailand.
‘But as it turns out Howard was a con man – this information was false,’ Wood told the court.
‘Did Mr. Howard tell you that Mr. Unsworth was a child rapist?’ Wood asked Birchall who responded, ‘He didn’t use those words but one concluded that because of the age (of the girl).’
‘We never believed he married a 12-year-old girl but she was 11 or 12 when he met her,’ added Birchall who said that he passed this information to Musk.
Earlier, Musk told the court that he acted out of retaliation after Unsworth mocked him for trying to help rescue 12 Thai boys from a cave they were trapped in last summer.
‘He insulted me so I insulted him back,’ he said.
Musk made his ‘pedo guy’ comment on Twitter after Unsworth, 63, criticized the tycoon’s offer of the use of a miniature submarine he’d invented to help in the rescue.
And in court Musk – wearing a dark suit and tie – told the jury of three men and five women: ‘I would like to make it clear that I was not calling Mr. Unsworth a pedophile… pedo guy is just a flippant, off-the-cuff insult that just means creepy old man.’
Divers didn’t use Musk’s submarine in saving the boys’ lives and Unsworth told CNN that the outspoken tycoon’s offer was just a ‘publicity stunt’ and Musk should ‘stick his submarine where it hurts.’
But Musk insisted in court that the leader of the rescue, Rick Stanton, took his design of a cigar-shaped mini submarine – big enough to hold one boy – very seriously and encouraged him to finish building it in case it could be used to help save the youngsters.
Divers didn’t use Musk’s submarine in saving the boys’ lives and Unsworth told CNN that the outspoken tycoon’s offer was just a ‘publicity stunt’ and Musk should ‘stick his submarine where it hurts.’ A courtroom sketch above of Musk inside court Wednesday
Courtroom sketch shows diver Rick Stanton during the trial in a defamation case filed by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth
So he was upset by Unsworth’s criticism of the sub – which he named the Wild Boar after the boys’ soccer team – and his lawyers showed a video in court of the vessel being tested in a swimming pool.
He denigrated the efforts of my team (who built the sub) in a way that was totally inappropriate.
Musk told U.S. Federal Court in downtown LA. ‘A lot of people worked day and night to be helpful – they left their families to help.
‘He (Unsworth) said it wouldn’t work and he also said we were thrown out of the cave, which was a lie. He was extremely rude and contentious.’
Stanton – a world-wide acclaimed diver and spelunker who led the courageous and rescue of the 12 Thai boys from a mile and a half deep cave – was called to the witness stand Wednesday and told the court that Unsworth provided valuable information on the layout of the cave and the best way to rescue the boys.
‘He had the best knowledge of the cave system,’ added Stanton, a 58-year-old retired firefighter from Coventry, England.
‘Vernon drew a map in micro detail of the cave for us to follow.’
While Stanton and his team eventually brought all the Thai boys and their coach out of the cave by sedating them and swimming them out with masks on them, Musk’s mini sub offer was kept in mind as a possible plan B.
While Musk, 48, conceded that his angry ‘pedo guy’ tweet was ‘regrettable’, he also said he deleted the tweet within hours of posting it and later apologized on Twitter, in a deposition and again during his court testimony Tuesday.
When Unsworth’s lawyer Lin Wood questioned how Unsworth could have seen the tweeted apology when he doesn’t have a Twitter account, Musk said: ‘Most of what I say on Twitter generally gets reported elsewhere.’
Among those on Musk’s witness list are the British diver’s first wife, Vanessa – who Musk and his lawyers claim he abandoned to go to Thailand – and his current wife, the Thai women he was falsely accused of marrying when she was a child.
Unsworth’s lawyers have called the Tesla billionaire ‘thin-skinned’ and a ‘bully’.
He is seeking unspecified damages that are to be determined by a jury.
The judge, Stephen V Wilson, told the jury the case would last approximately one week
On Tuesday, Musk said he did not know that Unsworth was deeply involved in the cave rescue of 12 Thai boys when he insulted him on Twitter.
‘I just thought he was some random creepy guy the media were interviewing,’ Musk said. ‘I thought at the time he was unrelated to the rescue.’
‘It’s just what I said,’ Musk told the court, referring to his tweet. ‘He said he was going to sue me. He hadn’t filed… it was odd.’
TIMELINE OF THE THAI RESCUE AND MUSK AND UNSWORTH’S DISPUTE
June 23 2018: The boys and their soccer coach become trapped in the caves
July 8: Musk tweets that he is using Tesla engineers to build a ‘kid size’ submarine to try to get them out
The Thai soccer team got lost in caves while exploring and became stuck for days. Musk offered to help and sent a team of Tesla engineers to build a submarine to get them out
July 8 – 10: The boys were rescued gradually in a complex mission involving hundreds of people
July 13: Vernon Unsworth gives a CNN interview where he is asked about Musk’s plan. He calls it a ‘PR stunt’ and says: ‘He can stick it where it hurts’ in reference to the submarine
July 15: Musk tweets calling him a ‘pedo guy’
July 17: Musk apologizes
August 15: Musk hires private investigator James Howard after he got in touch with him saying, in an email: ‘Dear Elon, you may wish to dig deep and look into Mr. Unsworth’s past… no smoke without fire!’
They set about launching their ‘investigation’ but go to great lengths to keep Musk separate from it. In emails, Musk’s associate Jared Birchall carried out their dealings and Musk was referred to as ‘the principle’. He and Birchall never discussed it in writing.
August 28: Musk tweets in response to a follower who accused him of lying about Unsworth: ‘You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me yet?
August 30: BuzzFeed reporter emails Musk for a comment. He replies saying, among other things, that Unsworth married a ‘child bride’ and inferring that he is a rapist
September 4: BuzzFeed publishes the story
September 5: Private Investigator emails Birchall, Musk’s associate, saying: ‘At no time have have I reported that the target is a child rapist.’
September 17: Unsworth files a lawsuit against Musk