British cave expert loses Elon Musk defamation case over ‘pedo guy’ tweet

Elon Musk has been found not liable in a defamation case involving a British cave explorer.

Vernon Unsworth sued the Tesla co-founder after he called him “pedo guy” and “sus” (suspicious) on Twitter in a spat following the July 2018 Thai cave rescue.

A federal court in California heard Mr Unsworth was left feeling “humiliated, ashamed, dirtied,” by the tweet from the billionaire.

Lawyers on behalf of Mr Musk argued it was no more than a playground insult and did not represent an allegation of paedophilia.

Elon Musk said “my faith in humanity is restored” after a jury took less than an hour to rule he was not liable of defamation.

A jury deliberated for less than an hour before agreeing with Mr Musk.

Both men, who were seated opposite each other inside court on Friday, gave evidence during the four-day trial.

Mr Unsworth, a 64-year-old financial adviser with a keen interest in caving, appeared emotional as he told of the impact Mr Musk’s July 15 2018 tweet had on his life.

Asked by his lawyer Lin Wood how he felt after seeing what 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.”

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 first travelled to Thailand in 2011 with his girlfriend Woranan Ratrawiphukkun, known as Tik.

He said as a result of Musk’s tweet, his name is “tagged with being a paedophile”.

Mr Musk insisted the phrase “pedo guy” was commonly used in his native South Africa and meant “creepy old guy” and not that Mr Unsworth was a paedophile.

His lawyer, Alex Spiro, said if people had received “pedo guy” as an allegation, Mr Unsworth would have been shunned by society, instead of meeting politicians, invited to speak at events and awarded an MBE.

Instead, there has been “not one” person to say they interpreted Mr Musk’s tweet as an allegation, Mr Spiro said.

“This was obviously an opinion, an insult, not a statement accusing you of a crime. No responsible reader would conclude you were accused of a sexual act of a child.”

“It was a jape,” Mr Spiro added.