A Dunedin man has been cleared of sexually assaulting two women he met through Tinder.
Michael John Danyon Fraser (24) was acquitted on three counts of rape, one of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and two of attempting to do so, after a jury returned unanimous verdicts this afternoon following more than five hours of deliberation.
Fraser first came to the police’s attention on January 21, 2018 when a woman who had matched with him on the popular dating app agreed to go home with him.
She told police the defendant had taken her clothes off and subjected her to a demeaning sex attack which included slapping, choking and putting a pillow over her head.
While the woman mentioned to a doctor who examined her that there had been kissing and consensual sex acts, she did not raise that in her police interview.
Defence counsel John Munro said it was the first example of the complainant exaggerating her story to cast Fraser in an unflattering light.
He stressed to the jury that the woman never explicitly told her friends that night that she had been raped and it was they who had drawn that inference.
Once they called police on her behalf, she was powerless to stop the process in motion, Mr Munro said, describing it as the “snowball effect”.
A second woman who went home with Fraser five weeks later after bumping into him in town made similar allegations.
She described to the jury being choked to the point she struggled to breathe and slapped about 10 times in the face, so hard she had a sore jaw and ringing ears.
But Mr Munro also highlighted problems with her evidence.
The woman raised new details during cross-examination that she had never mentioned to police or the Crown.
Mr Munro said she had tried to paint the incident as something from a horror movie.
“She wanted it to sound like the scene of the most awful kidnapping, strangling assault and rape that you’ve seen and it’s just not,” he told the court during his closing address.
He was also critical of her decision to make a Snapchat video of herself crying during the hours after leaving Fraser’s house, rather than go to police.
The complainant’s sister, who picked her up that night, initially told police she had not noticed any injuries to the woman.
But when she gave evidence last week she claimed to have noticed reddening on her neck and face.
Mr Munro called the witness a “true-blue liar”, who had clearly been trying to bolster her sister’s story.
While painting the complainants also as dishonest, he stressed there was no need for the defence to explain why.
“We don’t know what was going on in their head. Don’t get bogged down in why there’s been lies,” he said.
Fraser was discharged and embraced family members in the back the court.