Gayle Newland, 27, has been found guilty of tricking a female friend into having sex by pretending to be a man.
Newland, a creative writing graduate described in court as “an imaginative and persuasive liar”, adopted a male online persona called Kye Fortune in order to seduce a fellow student at Chester University in 2011.
She persuaded the student to wear a blindfold whenever they met, and wore a large strap-on prosthetic penis in order to dupe the woman into having penetrative sex. The jury heard that the complainant not only wore the blindfold during sex but also for at least 100 hours when the pair were just hanging out – going for drives, sunbathing and even “watching” films together.
The court heard that the two women met when Newland contacted the woman on Facebook, using the alter ego “Kye Fortune”. For a year the pair swapped messages and photos online, and talked regularly for hours on the phone, but did not meet, the court heard.
“Kye” provided various excuses as to why he could not meet in person – because he had been “badly injured and disfigured”, had a brain tumour and was being treated in hospital, that he had had a seizure and was in intensive care. The complainant, “perhaps naively on reflection”, accepted these excuses, said Simon Medland, QC, for the prosecution.
During that period Kye told the woman he had a friend called Gayle, who also happened to be studying at Chester University. This was Gayle Newland, the jury was told.
The two women met, using their real names, and became firm friends, with the student confiding in Newland about her relationship with Kye.
Eventually, in February 2013, Kye agreed to meet up with the student at a hotel in Chester. “He” (really, Newland) laid down a series of conditions that Medland conceded the jury might find “rather odd”.
The complainant was to remain blindfold throughout – because Kye was ashamed of his injuries. And he was bandaged around his chest because of a heart condition and had to wear a “medically necessary sort of bodysuit” during sex. In addition, he would have to wear a hat because of scarring caused by an operation on his brain tumour.
This unusual arrangement went on for some months, until 30 June 2013, when Kye and the student had sex for the final time. Halfway through, the student ripped off her blindfold and made “a very disturbing discovery indeed”: that Kye was her friend Gayle Newland, wearing a “realistic prosthetic penis with testicles”.
Giving evidence, Newland said she was a lesbian but had struggled with her sexuality. She admitted she created the alter-ego aged 15, using it to befriend other young women. She suffered from anxiety issues, she said, and using the alias made it easier to forge virtual relationships on social media.
Newland conceded that she and the complainant had a sexual relationship with her in character. But she insisted it was transparent and consensual. She claimed her first encounter with the complainant was not online but at a gay night at a Chester nightclub called Gender Blender, where she was open with the complainant both about her sexuality and the fact she sometimes pretended to be a man called Kye.
She argued that the complainant had struggled with her sexuality to an even greater extent, was embarrassed about being in a relationship with a woman, and told her friends she was going out with a man called Kye as a coping mechanism. “When we talked about role-play the only way I can describe is meeting up as Kye was code for doing things that were sexual. At that time I think it was the only way we were comfortable doing things sexual.”
To make Newland’s case, the jury was shown the large, pink prosthetic penis, which she used during their sexual encounters. The jury were ordered to take it into the jury room for their deliberations.
Nigel Power, QC, defending, told the jury that a sexually experienced woman like the complainant could not have been fooled by such an obviously fake penis.
The complainant’s version of events could not have been more different. She said she was heterosexual and had no idea that Newland was a lesbian. It was only after discovering Fortune was actually her best friend, she ran out of her own house in shock. Newland followed her and CCTV footage showed them rowing in the street.
One undisputed fact was that evening Newland attempted suicide. She then sent apologetic emails to the complainant, saying: “I had to make up lies to cover up the initial lie.” The complainant sent a series of texts, calling Newland “sick” and “evil”.
One read: “Are you for real you should be locked up for what you’ve done to me. You raped my life, my heart and soul. No amount of counselling will make up for this. you are pure evil Gayle. You are sick. I only have one question: why me? You have no explanation, Gayle, other than you are pure evil … If I had not ripped off the mask I would not have known the evil truth.”
The jury was told the “real issue” of the case boiled down to consent: did the complainant really know she was having sex with her friend, or did she honestly think her sexual partner was a man she had met on the internet?
In the end the jury decided the complainant had no idea that her lover was Gayle Newland and so could not have consented.
Newland was found guilty on three charges of assault by penetration by a majority verdict of 11 to one after the jury deliberated for 17 hours and 25 minutes. She was acquitted on one charge relating to an allegation of oral sex.
She wailed as the foreman delivered the verdicts and could be heard from the dock saying: “I can’t go back to prison.”
Her mother cried loudly from the public gallery as she heard her daughter’s sobs. A female member of the jury was visibly distressed as the verdicts were read out. The judge, David Stockdale, the recorder of Manchester, granted Newland bail ahead of sentencing on 20 July.
It was an “exceptional” decision, he told her, granted only because she had shown up to every hearing on time and he was satisfied she would not abscond. When he told her she had to report to the police to sign the sex offender register, she cried: “Why sex offender?”
The judge warned her that just because she was being granted bail did not mean she would not go to prison.
“The fact I’m granting you bail now is absolutely no indication of the sentence that you are likely to receive on 20 July. On the contrary, you must understand now the overwhelming likelihood is that on 20 July you will receive a significant custodial sentence. You should be in no doubt about that at all.”
Source: The Guardian