LONDON (AP) — Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen was cleared Wednesday of sexually assaulting a woman on a flight to Britain from a World Golf Championships event in Tennessee in 2019.
The 31-year-old Olesen wept and hugged his partner after being acquitted at a London court of sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on board the plane from Nashville to London.
Olesen faced allegations he grabbed a woman’s breast, pushed a member of the cabin crew and urinated on a first-class passenger’s seat. He said he has no memory of his behavior after drinking alcohol and taking sleeping tablets.
Olesen’s lawyer said the player’s career would have been “over” if he was found guilty.
“I have paid a very heavy price for my mistake,” said Olesen, a five-time winner on the European Tour who was ranked No. 62 at the time of the incidents but has since fallen to No. 432.
“This case,” he added in a statement issued after the verdict, “has had a devastating impact on me personally, on my family, and on my career.”
Olesen, who was a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning team in 2018, was arrested after arriving at Heathrow Airport on July 29, 2019. He was suspended by the European Tour the following month pending an investigation, with the suspension lifted last July because of a delay in court proceedings.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported me during the past two years and the European Tour for reinstating me in 2020,” Olesen said. “I have learned from my mistake and will make sure I never put myself in a similar position again. I now want to focus on my golf, free from distractions, and to repay the trust of everyone who has kept faith in me throughout this very difficult time.”
A trial at Aldersgate House Nightingale Court in central London heard how he drank beer, red wine, vodka and champagne before takeoff after playing the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Olesen ran around the cabin “like a little boy,” got trapped in the toilet, and became verbally abusive to cabin crew when challenged, the jury was told.
Witnesses said Olesen pushed a British Airways cabin crew member, kissed the cabin service director’s hand before making the sign of the cross, and nuzzled his face into a woman’s neck before grabbing her breast.
Olesen then cried before falling asleep but later got up and urinated on the seat of a fellow first-class passenger.
While giving evidence, Olesen said he had wanted to fall asleep on the plane straightaway having played several big tournaments, including the British Open.
“I do not remember anything that happened after takeoff, but I am embarrassed and ashamed by the account of my actions that was outlined during the trial,” he said.
“My behavior was completely out of character and nothing like this has ever happened to me before or since. My actions resulted from taking powerful sleeping pills I had not taken before and my sole intent was to ensure I managed to sleep on a transatlantic flight after an exhausting playing schedule.”
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