Thorbjorn Olesen cleared of sexual assault and now ‘wants to focus on golf’
Ryder Cup winner Thorbjorn Olesen wept in court and said he wants to focus on his golf after he was cleared of sexually assaulting a woman on a British Airways flight.
The Dane, 31, claimed he turned into an “automaton” and was not in control of his body after taking prescription-only sleeping pills 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.
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 he 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.
He wept and hugged his partner after he was cleared and said in a statement: “I want to apologise wholeheartedly to everyone on board the flight from Memphis to London on July 29th 2019, who was affected by my behaviour.
“I do not remember anything that happened after take-off, but I am embarrassed and ashamed by the account of my actions that was outlined during the trial.
“My behaviour was completely out of character and nothing like this has ever happened to me before or since.
“My actions resulted from taking powerful sleeping pills I had not taken before and my sole intent was to ensure I managed to sleep on a transatlantic flight after an exhausting playing schedule.
“I have paid a very heavy price for my mistake.
“This case has had a devastating impact on me personally, on my family, and on my career”.
Olesen was part of the European Ryder Cup team that beat the US in 2018 and had lucrative sponsorship deals with firms including Nike, BMW, Rolex and Titleist.
He was suspended and lost contracts following his arrest on landing at Heathrow Airport and has struggled on the European Tour since being reinstated, plummeting from 51st to 440th in the world rankings.
Olesen added: “I have learned from my mistake and will make sure I never put myself in a similar position again.
“I now want to focus on my golf, free from distractions, and to repay the trust of everyone who has kept faith in me throughout this very difficult time”.
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-takeoff sleeping pill for transforming him into an “automaton” during a 10-hour Seattle to Heathrow flight.
Luke Donald expects Europe to be Ryder Cup underdogs despite home dominance
The United States cruised to a record 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits in 2021.
England’s Charley Hull triumphs in Texas to end six-year wait for LPGA title
The victory was the 26-year-old’s first on the LPGA Tour since prevailing at the CME Group Tour Championship in November 2016.
Ryan Fox remembers Shane Warne after St Andrews success
The New Zealander secured his third DP World Tour title in front of his family with a one-shot victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Romain Langasque equals course record to lead Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
The Frenchman recovered from an early bogey with two eagles and eight birdies to reach 11 under par.
Rory McIlroy bemoans ‘ugly year’ and seeks solution to divide in golf world
The arrival of Saudi-backed LIV Golf series has fractured the game in 2022.
On this day in 2014 – Europe retain Ryder Cup with Gleneagles victory
The Gleneagles victory was Europe’s eighth win in 10 matches.
‘Is this where I am going to die?’ Nicolas Colsaerts on kidney disorder battle
The Belgian is the focus of attention this week as he belatedly defends the Cazoo Open de France title he won three years ago.
On this day in 2008: Ryder Cup misery in Louisville for Nick Faldo’s Europe team
Faldo was heavily criticised for his tactics in the closing singles.
Open champion Cameron Smith wins first LIV trophy in just second start
The world number two is the highest-ranked player to join the rebel series.
Robert MacIntyre beats Matt Fitzpatrick in play-off to win Italian Open
MacIntyre birdied the first extra hole at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, the venue for next year’s Ryder Cup.