Girlfriend of British rescue diver set to testify in Elon Musk defamation case

The girlfriend of a British rescue diver called “pedo guy” by the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is set to testify in his defamation trial, a court has heard.

Vernon Unsworth is suing the co-founder of Tesla for defamation after the billionaire said in a since-deleted tweeted that he was a “pedo” following the 2018 Thai cave rescue.

The row started when Mr Unsworth, who helped with the perilous underwater mission, dismissed Mr Musk’s offer of aid as a publicity stunt.

Mr Musk later referred to him as a “child rapist” in an email to a reporter.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Lin Wood, representing Mr Unsworth, said during a pre-trial hearing in Los Angeles on Monday that his client’s partner Woranan Ratrawiphukkun will provide evidence via video at the upcoming trial in the California Central District Court.

Ms Ratrawiphukkun, in her early 40s and known as Tik, lives in Thailand.

Mr Musk said he never intended to accuse Mr Unsworth, 64, of paedophilia, arguing he was instead suggesting he was a “creepy old man”.

His lawyers asked for the case do be dismissed on the basis his comments were insults rather than allegations so they did not constitute defamation.

However, Judge Stephen Wilson refused and instead ordered the case to jury trial.

Lawyers for Mr Musk had also argued Mr Unsworth is a public figure, which would have made the burden of proof for his defamation claim higher.

Again, the judge disagreed and said he is a private figure.

In accordance with US law, lawyers acting on behalf of the diver now have to prove Mr Musk acted with “actual malice”, or published statements he knew to be false.

The trial is set to begin on December 3.