Woman’s horrifying near-death night out with friend
A young man accused of spiking his female friend's cocktail at a pub in Sydney's inner west, causing her to collapse and need CPR, was caught on CCTV putting something in a drink, a court has heard.
But Thomas Elliott's lawyer today argued the minute-by-minute timing of Friday's incident and his client's whereabouts were "quite relevant", adding the 28-year-old did not ingest the party drug GHB or anything similar before allegedly spitting in the younger woman's drink.
Texts and social media messages from the accused and the complainant were also laid bare.
"We formally deny the offence," lawyer Bryan Wrench told Sydney's Central Local Court.
Mr Elliott, who lives down the road from the pub, was arrested at work yesterday afternoon and charged with administering a poison intending to cause distress. He spent the night in custody.
Court papers seen by news.com.au allege the drug was the "intoxicating substance gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)".
The court heard today he is now also facing the backup charge of drink spiking which carries a maximum penalty of two years behind bars.
According to his social media profiles, Mr Elliott attended Sydney Secondary College and then studied Games Programming at QANTM digital media college.
He describes himself online as single and his interests as "programming, fire spinning and synthesisers, that's about it".
Wearing a black T-shirt and pants, Mr Elliott sniffled as he appeared via video link from Surry Hills police station while his family watched on nervously from the public gallery in court.
His alleged victim went to the Newtown Hotel on King St, known as the "Townie", with her friends on Friday night.
Police allege the 27-year-old woman sat down at a table but left her cocktail unattended and went to use the bathroom.
"It is a strong circumstantial case," police prosecutor, Sergeant Liam Edwards, told the court.
"The CCTV footage captures actions that I'd submit are consistent with someone putting a substance into a drink."
He said following the "action", allegedly made by Elliott, the woman became unwell and collapsed before CPR was commenced.
Toxicology results from the hospital indicated the presence of the drug GHB in her system.
"We would obviously be inferring that was a result of the accused's actions," the prosecutor said.
"The intention would be to harm her."
According to NSW Health, GHB is a depressant drug with "sedative hypnotic effects".
"GHB may have a bitter or salty taste but when mixed in a beverage it is difficult to detect," the health department's Your Room website states.
Facebook messages from the alleged victim were read aloud in court by Mr Elliott's lawyer.
"I finished work at 7.30pm, Townie at 8pm … (by) 9.15pm I was passed out on the floor of the bathroom and woke up in hospital," Mr Wrench read.
"(The complainant) is replying to a friend: 'Waiting on the discharge papers from the hospital but they reckon it's medical-related, not a drink spiking'."
He said Mr Elliott attended the Townie on Friday night with a different female friend about 9pm.
"If you look at the timing, Your Honour, the timing is quite relevant," he said.
"At 9.04pm he (Elliott) says 'You're at the Townie?', Mr Wrench said.
The female friend replied "Yes".
"Your Honour would read that in the context that … she (the alleged victim) was already there at 8pm," Mr Wrench said.
"She's already, on her version, had 'half a cocktail jug' which leaves very little opportunity for my client to engage in … drink spiking."
The lawyer said there were other messages from Mr Elliott indicating his concern for the victim.
"The reason why we also raise that, he's friends of the complainant," Mr Wrench said.
"He doesn't have any motive to engage in what was occurring and he was only there for a short time because he was meant to go out with his (female) friend."
Mr Wrench said that friend, who is a prosecution witness, told him outside court today that there were "also two other creepy guys hanging around that area".
He said the friend was with Mr Elliott at all times and did not see him engage in drink spiking or any attempt to spike.
"What is curious about the description of what has occurred, which is on the police version … of a spitting into the drink, there's no suggestion of him ingesting the GHB or any like-drug to spit in the drink," Mr Wrench said.
Sergeant Edwards said the messages from the woman about it being a medical episode were sent prior to the hospital's toxicology results recognising the presence of GHB.
"At this point in time, she is not assisting police with our investigation," he said.
The prosecutor said she is also not helping investigators to obtain her medical records.
Mr Elliott and his mother burst into tears when magistrate Robert Williams granted bail on strict conditions including a 9pm to 5am curfew, living with his parents, reporting to police daily from Wednesday to Sunday and not entering any licensed premises.
He took into account the prosecutor's submission in relation to CCTV evidence "and what appears to be some actions or action" of Elliott "towards a drink of the victim" in this case.
"The court does note, however, the matters which have been highlighted by the applicant in these proceedings as to some matters which can affect the strength of the prosecution case," he said.
The magistrate said they include the time over which it appeared the victim had been drinking "and possibility of others persons being involved".
"I also note what is set out in those other documents in relation to what had been drunk by the victim appears to be inconsistent what is set out in the facts sheet," Mr Williams said.
"It would appear to me that the case which is presented by the prosecution as set out on the facts sheet cannot be classified as a strong case due to those issues which have been raised, not withstanding there is CCTV evidence as to the actions of the accused."
Elliott has no criminal record including any matters of noncompliance with orders or violence.
The 28-year-old is due to appear before Newtown Local Court on December 11.
News.com.au contacted the Newtown Hotel but had not received a reply by Wednesday night.