Former client tells court of 'scam' healing workshop
By Sam McKeith
A FORMER Universal Medicine client has told the NSW Supreme Court he had a "dummy spit" after attending a "scam" workshop run by the Lismore-based group.
A trial is under way in Sydney where Universal Medicine founder Serge Benhayon, 54, is suing his former client Esther Rockett for defamation over alleged online claims about him starting in 2014.
Ms Rockett is defending the claims at the four-person jury trial - now in its second week - on several bases including truth and honest opinion.
On Wednesday, Matthew Sutherland, a former client of Universal Medicine, told the court he attended workshops run by the group "fairly erratically" between 2006 and 2012, with his partner at the time.
Mr Sutherland said he was at first "very interested" in the group's teachings after learning of them at a Byron Bay bookshop, but came to question "what was going on" at the north coast-based business.
He told the court of "heaps of massage tables" at workshops where he followed demonstrations and used manuals to practise healing techniques, including one called "deeper femaleness".
"I remember seeking out my partner because I didn't want to do that on someone I didn't know," the witness said.
On one occasion, Mr Sutherland recalled having an "unfavourable reaction" to a workshop, labelling it "bulls---" and a "scam".
"I had a bit of a dummy spit," Mr Sutherland said.
Mr Sutherland said he and his partner would pay $1000 per person for a three-day workshop, but noted that workshops were often discounted to "get bums on seats".
"He (Serge Benhayon) was big on discounts," Mr Sutherland said.
Earlier, Ms Rockett defended her claims against the tennis coach turned spiritual healer, including a series of five tweets she published in August 2016.
"I believe they were correct," she said.
"I believe I had reasonable grounds to publish, certainly."
Ms Rockett has previously told the trial of her concerns about the group, including "suspicious behaviour", "bogus therapies" and girls staying at the Benhayon household.
She has also previously claimed that she never wanted to go near Mr Benhayon again after an "ovarian reading" with him in 2005.
Mr Benhayon, in his evidence, said he felt "raped" by the accusations made online against him.
The trial continues before Justice Julia Lonergan.