Thai cave rescuer Vernon Unsworth suing Elon Musk after ‘child rapist’ slur

By @chelean on
British caver Vern Unsworth
British caver Vern Unsworth is seen at a check-in counter at Bangkok's International Airport, Thailand, July 19, 2018. Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

The British diver whom Elon Musk unfoundedly called a paedophile is planning to sue him in three countries. Vernon Unsworth was instrumental in rescuing the missing Thai boys and their coach who got trapped in an underground cave network.

Unsworth caught the ire of Musk when he criticised the American billionaire’s involvement in the Thai cave rescue, calling his effort just a “PR stunt.” Musk, who was already being panned on social media for bringing a child submarine that was unusable in such situation, didn’t appreciate the comment. He called Unsworth a “paedo guy,” doubling down on his accusation when he was called out on Twitter.

He has since apologised, saying his words were spoken in anger. “Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologise to Mr Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone,” he tweeted.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk FILE PHOTO: SpaceX founder Elon Musk pauses at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018.  Reuters/Joe Skipper/File Photo

But just a few weeks after his apology, he has again come out with the accusation. He claimed the 63-year-old Thai cave hero moved from the UK to Thailand to take a child bride.

In a series of emails to BuzzFeed News, Musk called Unsworth a “child rapist."

“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you f------ a------,” he wrote in an email. “He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been travelling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”

Musk continued, “As for this alleged threat of a lawsuit, which magically appeared when I raised the issue (nothing was sent or raised beforehand), I f------ hope he sues me.”

And sue him he will. Unsworth said Musk’s claims were “100 percent” false, telling The Times that he would sue Musk in three countries: the US, the UK and Thailand, where defamation is a criminal offence and punishable by jail.

“I’ve been told today to be very careful because this guy may do anything to make my life difficult,” he said.

“Just as we get a series of legal proceedings drafted, Mr Musk adds another libel to it,” Mark Stephens, Unsworth’s lawyer, added. “This has been going since July and he has not produced a scintilla of evidence. He may have money, but he does not seem to have much class.”

BuzzFeed News notes that it could not verify any of Musk’s claims. The Tesla CEO did not provide proof of his claims. The publication also spoke with a Thai woman named Woranan Ratrawiphukkun, who is Unsworth’s long-time girlfriend. She said she is 40 years old and they have been together for seven years.

Thai cave heroes defend Unsworth

In separate emails sent to BuzzFeed News, Musk has also tried to dismiss Unsworth’s contribution to the rescue, claiming Unsworth wasn’t on the cave dive rescue team and most of those who were refused to hang out with him. He said he never saw Unsworth “at any point” because he was apparently banned from the site.

British diver Rick Stanton, who, along with John Volanthen, discovered the boys in the cave, denied Musk’s claims, saying there were “completely unfounded.” “He was never kicked off site by anyone and worked continuously on the rescue for the full duration. He was pivotal to the entire operation.”

Australians Richard Harris and Craig Challen also said Unsworth was “absolutely vital to the mission.”

“He was pivotal with his knowledge of the cave. [The] rescue wouldn’t have happened without him recommending the Brits were called,” Harris said.

Unsworth, who has detailed knowledge of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, helped locate where the boys might be located inside the cave complex. He also advised the Thai government to request assistance from the British Cave Rescue Council. Photos and videos posted by local Thai news media show Unsworth at the site throughout the duration of the operation as well.

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