An Australian man has been found not guilty of murdering a New Zealand tourist who plunged 14 floors from his balcony. The case generated worldwide interest after a recording of their argument was played in court.
Gable Tostee was also acquitted on Thursday of the lesser offense of manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Warriena Wright, who fell from his apartment balcony in 2014 after the two met through the dating app Tinder.
Wright was on holiday in Surfers Paradise on Australia's east coast when she met the 30-year-old Tostee and ended up in his apartment.
The case gripped the nation after the court was played an audio recording made by Tostee on his cell phone that captured an altercation between the pair, where Wright can be heard screaming.
Prosecutor Glen Cash said Tostee intimidated and threatened Wright so much that she felt her only escape was to climb down from his balcony.
At no point though, did the prosecution suggest Tostee pushed or threw Wright to her death. She fell after trying to climb to a lower floor and died from severe injuries.
Date turned ugly
Cash alleged that Tostee became angry after Wright threw ornamental rocks at him and hit him with a telescope. On the audio recording, he can be heard complaining about Wright, calling her a "psycho bitch."
The prosecutor also said that Tostee choked and restrained her before locking her out of his apartment on the balcony.
Wright is later heard to yell "no" amid the sound of what appeared to be a door unlocking and then saying "just let me go home" repeatedly. The fatal fall is also captured on the recording.
"You're lucky I haven't chucked you off my balcony," Tostee is heard saying in the recording. "If you try to pull anything, I'll knock you out."
Victim was 'aggressive'
Defense lawyer Saul Holt said Wright, from Lower Hut on New Zealand's North Island, had become aggressive towards Tostee after a night of drinking. He denied Tostee was responsible for her death.
The court was told that Tostee left his apartment after Wright's fall, then called his father and a lawyer, Brisbane's Courier Mail reported.
The 12-person jury in the Queensland Supreme Court took four days to deliberate the case. They had to get clarification on several points from the presiding judge before unanimously acquitting Tostee of murder and manslaughter.
Defense lawyer Nick Dore told reporters outside the court his client was "relieved this matter is now behind him and he's looking forward to moving on with his life."
mm/msh (AFP, AP)