Woman found guilty of posing as man to trick friend into sex

Gayle Newland
Gayle Newland

A woman has been convicted of impersonating a man for over two years in an "astonishing deception" to trick her female friend into sex.

Gayle Newland, 27, created a "disturbingly complex" online persona to achieve her own "bizarre sexual satisfaction".

Gayle Newland

Gayle Newland

A retrial jury at Manchester Crown Court found her guilty of committing sexual assault by using a prosthetic penis without her victim's consent.

Newland, of Willaston, Cheshire, was jailed for eight years in November 2015 after she was convicted of the same offences by another jury at Chester Crown Court. But the conviction was quashed in the Court of Appeal last December and a retrial was ordered after it was ruled that the trial judge's summing up of the case was not fair and balanced.

The complainant said she was persuaded by the defendant to wear a blindfold at all times when they met and only found out she was having sex with Newland when she finally took off her mask.

Newland claimed her accuser always knew she was pretending to be Kye Fortune - a Facebook profile she created at the age of 15 using an American man's photographs and videos - as they engaged in role play while struggling with their sexuality.

She said no blindfold was used as they had sex on about 10 occasions at the complainant's flat in Chester in 2013. The defendant also told the court she did not strap bandages to her chest or wear a swimsuit and a woollen hat to conceal her appearance.

The defendant spent "hundreds" of hours talking on the telephone to her friend as Kye and more than 100 hours in each other's company.

These encounters, according to the complainant, included her wearing a blindfold at all times together - including watching television, going on a car journey also wearing sunglasses and even sunbathing.

Prosecutor Simon Medland QC told the jury: "This manipulative, deceitful and very crafty young woman went to such astonishing lengths to control the complainant's life and make her do the things the defendant wanted her to do."

The verdicts can be reported after reporting restrictions imposed at the start of the retrial were lifted.

Newland was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault and cleared of a fourth count.

The jury of nine women and three men reached majority guilty verdicts of 11-1 after deliberating for 17 hours and 25 minutes.

The defendant cried in the dock, shook her head and at one point said: "I can't go back to jail."

One of the female jurors was visibly upset and struggling to hold back tears as Newland became distressed.

The Recorder of Manchester, Judge David Stockdale QC, granted Newland bail ahead of sentencing on July 20. But he told her the "overwhelming likelihood" was that she would receive "a significant immediate custodial sentence".

Newland's mother, Julie, wept in the upstairs public gallery of the court, while her father, Brian, who had also attended the trial throughout, was not in the courtroom for the verdicts.

When Newland was told by the judge she would have to sign the Sex Offender Register she repeatedly said: "Sex Offender?"

Judge Stockdale said pre-sentence reports would be prepared by the Probation Service and granting bail was no indicator of the sentence she was likely to receive.

Last week when giving evidence behind a curtain, the "emotionally vulnerable" complainant said Kye told her he was undergoing treatment or cancer and was paranoid about his physical appearance.

She agreed to his demands for her to wear a blindfold, consisting of a sleeping mask and a light scarf, because she was in love, she said.

The complainant, also aged in her mid 20s, said: "There was no point until the day I took the blindfold off that I thought for one second that a woman was the person behind this."

She said she received a Facebook friend request from Kye, who shared the same birthday and interests as the defendant.

She said it was Kye who introduced her to Newland as his best friend.

The complainant said she thought Newland was straight and denied she herself was gay.

She said: "If I was gay I would have no problem with coming out...I have been straight since the day I was born. That's just the way it is."

She added: "Why would I come to court? Why would I give evidence? Why would I keep humiliating myself?"

Mr Medland asked her: "To who were you consenting?

She replied: "With Kye Fortune. The person I knew from the photos, the person I had spoken to, the person I shared all my dreams with, the person who I thought was half-Filipino half-Latino."

Newland, who graduated from the University of Chester with a degree in marketing and creative writing, told the court the complainant approached her in a nightclub in 2011 and asked her if she was gay.

She said: "I said I was not comfortable with it. She told me she was gay too.

"She was not comfortable with it and no-one knew. There was common ground straightaway."

Newland's version of events was that she then drunkenly told the woman about the Kye Fortune persona and the pair began communicating in character.

The pair finally met up in character in 2013 but the defendant told the court she never dressed as a man and no blindfold was ever used.

Later that year Newland said she told the complainant she was going to come out to her parents as gay but the complainant became angry.

Less than a week later the complainant appeared "very distant" and "not herself" when they met up again, said Newland.

After they had sex with the prosthetic penis she said the complainant "just switched" and "kept saying what the hell are you doing here Gayle?".

Three days later her friend made a complaint to police that the sex was non-consensual and Newland was arrested.