Former University of Chester student Gayle Newland has been found guilty for a second time of duping her female friend into wearing a blindfold and sexually assaulting her with a fake penis.
In a case which made international headlines, Newland created the “disturbingly complex” online persona of a man named Kye Fortune to seduce the woman before using bandages, a woolly hat and a swimsuit to hide her body.
Newland broke down in tears in the dock and appeared to suffer a panic attack as a jury delivered a majority guilty verdict of 11 to one, on three out of four charges.
Her mother, watching from the public gallery, also broke down as her daughter cried “I can’t go back to jail.”
In an extraordinary two-year deception Newland also befriended the victim, who never suspected her friend Gayle and her ‘fiancé’ Kye were the same person, even after around 10 sexual encounters involving the strap-on sex toy.
The now 27-year-old was found guilty of three sexual assaults and jailed for eight years after a dramatic trial in September 2015, but had her conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal in October, 2016.
The appeal court ordered a retrial at Manchester Crown Court after ruling that the original judge, Roger Dutton, QC, was “not fair and not balanced” when he summed up the evidence to the jury.
But Newland, of Hooton Road, in Willaston, Neston, was today re-convicted of three out of four counts of sexual assault by penetration, by a majority of 11 to one by a new jury of nine women and three men.
The media were barred from reporting on the retrial by the Recorder of Manchester, Judge David Stockdale, QC, over fears the extensive publicity surrounding the original trial could prejudice the case.
Former creative writing student Newland openly admitted creating the Kye profile when she was 15 to speak to girls online, using hundreds of photos of an unwitting American man.
Simon Medland, QC, prosecuting, told the jury for the first 12 months Kye fobbed off a face-to-face meeting with the eventual victim by claiming he was was too embarrassed about his frail appearance due to treatment for a brain tumour.
The victim told police she fell in love with Kye and he eventually agreed to meet on the condition she would wear a blindfold at all times and have her hands tied behind her back during sex.
Newland had wrapped her body in bandages and wore a swimsuit, claiming it was a special circulation suit related to Kye’s cancer treatment.
The court heard extraordinary claims the victim would spent hours unable to see and even allowed herself to be driven around by Kye while wearing a blindfold and scarf over her eyes with sunglasses over the top.
She said any time she complained to Kye about the bizarre conditions of their relationship she would receive texts claiming to be from his brother Miles saying Kye had collapsed and that “all this arguing is not good for him”.
Mr Medland said: “However gullible you think the complainant was, however naïve perhaps, don’t forget the multiple layers of carefully spun deceit the defendant used over a long period of time to persuade the complainant of what she, the defendant, wanted her to believe.”
Newland had always denied the victim had been deceived into thinking she was a man and told the jury they used the strap-on prosthetic penis as part of a normal, if secretive, same-sex relationship.
But the victim convinced the jury she thought she had been having sex with a man, only to rip off her blindfold one day in summer 2013.
She told police: “Something didn’t feel right, so I sat up on the bed, he was standing up.
“Something in my mind just said pull it off, I wasn’t thinking about whether he would finish with me. Gayle was just standing there, with this strap-on, and I just could not believe it, I just couldn’t believe it. She knew straight away, when I pulled it off she pulled her hat down over her face. She said ‘it’s not what you think, I just used it this time’.”
CCTV showed the pair seemingly arguing in the street outside the victim’s flat.
Later that day Newland attempted suicide by jumping into a canal, and was found to be wearing a swimsuit under her clothing.
She later told a police officer: “I have done something I shouldn’t have and now my friend can’t forgive me.”
Mr Medland questioned Newland over what he suggested was a “confession”, an email she sent to the victim shortly after the pair split up.
The email said: “I made up lies to cover up the initial lie. I never intended it to go this far, it turned from seed into a tree and every day I felt guilty, but I knew you needed me.”
Newland replied: “Where’s the mention of a blindfold, where’s the mention of her hands tied behind her back?”
Mr Medland also read a message from the victim to Newland, saying: “You should be locked up for what you have done to me. You have raped my life, my heart and my soul....
“You’re pure evil Gayle...The worst thing is if I had not ripped the mask off I would never know the evil, ugly truth.”
Mr Medland told the jury that Gayle had originally admitted a blindfold was used during sex in her defence statement, before saying in court that one had never been used.
The statement said: “There were times when the scarf or blindfold slipped down and allowed (the victim) the opportunity to see the defendant.”
Newland said: “At the time I was very much in denial about (the victim’s) intentions, I honestly believed that it was the CPS that were pushing it, and not for one second (the victim). I felt like I needed to give her a way out, an olive branch almost.
“However I never once thought it would go to court, I especially never thought she would take it any further and look me in the eyes and say the things she did. Once she did that was the second everything changed, I never once lied in court.”
Nigel Power, QC, defending, suggested to the victim that she faked the allegations over fears she would be outed as gay after Gayle said she was thinking of coming out to her parents.
The woman told the jury: “There’s no way in hell I would let Gayle sleep with me with a strap-on. There’s no way, I’m a heterosexual lady, I’m not a lesbian.”
Newland will be sentenced on July 20.