Ryder Cup winner Thorbjorn Olesen wept as he was cleared of sexually assaulting a woman on a British Airways flight after blaming his behaviour on sleeping pills.
The Danish golfer, 31, claimed he turned into an “automaton” and was not in control of his body after taking the prescription only tablets bought on a “dodgy website” by his partner Lauren Zafer.
Olesen was on the eight-hour flight from Nashville to London with other professionals including England’s Ian Poulter, 45, and Justin Rose, 41, following the World Golf Championships-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis.
Olesen wept and hugged his partner after he was cleared.
A trial at Aldersgate House Nightingale Court, in central London, heard how he had drunk beer, red wine, vodka and champagne before take-off.
The five-time European Tour winner 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 the sportsman pushed BA worker Sarah White, kissed cabin service director Graham Gee’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 fellow first-class passenger John Haggis’s seat.
Giving evidence, he said he had wanted to fall straight asleep on the plane having played several big tournaments, including the Open.
The sportsman said he took two melanin tablets, which he regularly used to tackle jet lag, along with two Ambien/Zolpadine pills left in his wash bag by PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant Ms Zafer, the mother of his child.
He said had no memory of his behaviour after being served a glass of champagne before take-off and the court heard the medication can cause side effects including amnesia, loss of coordination and sleepwalking.
His barrister, Trevor Burke QC, ran the defence of automatism, telling jurors: “His conduct was not voluntary.”
Character witnesses, including his parents, high school sweetheart, caddy Dominic Bott and fellow Danish professional golfer Lucas Bjerregaard, 30, told of their “shock” at the allegations, which were described as “totally out of character”.
Olesen, of Chelsea, west London, was on Wednesday acquitted of sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on an aircraft on July 29, 2019, after the jury deliberated for less than an hour following a three-day trial.
The case echoes the 2002 trial of REM guitarist Peter Buck, which saw the rock star cleared of being drunk on a plane, assaulting cabin crew and causing criminal damage to British Airways’ property.
He blamed a pre-take off sleeping pill for transforming him into an “automaton” during a 10-hour Seattle to Heathrow flight.