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Fateful night: a young woman is dead, her Tinder date charged with murder

The Guardian The Guardian 6 days ago Joshua Robertson

Warriena Wright was visiting the Gold Coast in Australia when she matched on Tinder with Gable Tostee. They met up in the popular tourist nightspot of Surfers Paradise on a Thursday night and bought a six-pack of beer after spending a few minutes in a pub.

By the end of the date Wright was dead, having plunged 14 storeys from the balcony of Tostee’s apartment, and two years later he is on trial in Queensland’s supreme court charged with her murder.

The case centres around a 199-minute mobile recording made by Tostee which captured the fractious and ultimately fatal course of the pair’s evening together, including the moment Wright fell to her death.

It is the key piece of evidence in the supreme court trial of Tostee, 30, who was standing on the other side of a locked glass door the moment Wright fell.

Warriena Wright and Gable Tostee pose for photos together on the balcony of his 14th floor Surfers Paradise apartment. © Provided by Guardian News Warriena Wright and Gable Tostee pose for photos together on the balcony of his 14th floor Surfers Paradise apartment. Related: Gable Tostee murder trial played Warriena Wright's screams before balcony fall

And the recording is cited by the crown as demonstration of his guilt, and by the defence as vindication of his innocence. 

The pair had met that night, 7 August 2014, after making contact via Tinder a week earlier.

Wright, 26, from New Zealand, was in Australia to attend a friend’s wedding as part of a two-week vacation that included skydiving and a room in a hotel in Surfers Paradise, near where Tostee lived.

CCTV shown to the court captured their meeting on Cavill Avenue in Surfers Paradise, where they exchanged a hug.

They went to a pub but stayed only a few minutes before deciding to head back to Tostee’s apartment nearby, stopping at a bottle shop to buy a six-pack of beer.

Inside the apartment, Tostee says they later had sex in his bed.

They then went out to his balcony where they posed for photos together, Wright pulling faces, Tostee standing beside her bare-chested.

Wright’s last contact with family was a Facebook message to a sister, in which she reports having found a man who was the Australian answer to Sam Winchester, the Supernatural TV actor.

At 1am on 8 October, unbeknown to Wright, Tostee pressed record on a mobile phone in his pocket. He wouldn’t turn it off until 199 minutes later. By then Wright was dead.

Tostee, having left the building via a basement carpark but still apparently unaware of her fate as police milled around the building, had called his father who urged him to contact a leading criminal lawyer. He had then eaten a pizza.

The crown case is that Tostee, who had locked Wright out on the balcony after their night had deteriorated into verbal and physical altercations, had left Wright in such a state of fear and intimidation that she felt compelled to flee.

When Wright’s attempt to climb down from the balcony went horribly awry, Tostee was thus responsible for her death, the prosecution contends.

The prosecutor, Glen Cash, told the court in his opening address that at the very least Tostee meant to cause Wright grievous bodily harm, causing her to flee, resulting in her death.

Cash said Tostee’s recording captured a moment where sounds were consistent with him choking or strangling Wright. She pleaded to be allowed to go home before repeatedly screaming “no” as he shoved her on to the balcony and shut the door.

Defence lawyers for Tostee, who has pleaded not guilty, deny any attempt by Tostee to strangle Wright.

His barrister, Saul Holt, has told the court that Tostee used reasonable force to subdue Wright, who had grown “increasingly erratic” while drinking heavily. She had taken to randomly, with no apparent provocation, hitting Tostee, threatening violence, throwing ornamental rocks – one of his interior decorations – at his head and hitting him with the clamp of his telescope.

Holt argued that Tostee, after tackling Wright to the floor and forcing her on to the balcony, put them both in a position of safety by shutting the door.

Tostee was entitled to lock the door on someone who was violent and disorderly, Holt submitted.

Gable Tostee arrives at the supreme court in Brisbane on Friday. © Provided by Guardian News Gable Tostee arrives at the supreme court in Brisbane on Friday.

“She is outside, he is inside and he has caused a locked door to be between the two of them,” Holt told the court.

“What happened in this case is nothing like murder or manslaughter. It doesn’t fit.”

Holt said the fact that the critical part of the evening was recorded on Tostee’s phone meant there was “very little in dispute” between the crown and the defence apart from the allegation about choking her, which was in “absolute dispute”, and his culpability for her death.

The audio recording, which was discovered by police on a Sony Xperia phone they found in Tostee’s father’s car, has been released by the court.

It captures an early morning conversation awkwardly traversing topics from architecture to religion, as James Blunt and Kanye West play in the background.

The talk is punctuated by Tostee’s occasional cries of “Ow!” as Wright punches him. He tells her to “chill and have a drink”.

“You love beating me up like a Kiwi,” Tostee says. Wright tells him she beats people up all the time.

Tostee quips that he will end up looking “like a piece of tenderised meat” if she keeps hitting him.

She asks him if he can tell her mother she’s “not a loser”. She talks about her dog that died, her belief in justice and the afterlife.

Tostee says: “We die. That’s it. Throw me off the balcony.” He talks of “three things that are really good on this Earth: food, sleep and sex”.

He says there are “no gods”. She says: “I’ve seen stuff though.”

Wright tells him: “I am going to go vampire on your a***.”

Tostee yells “Ow!” again. He’s still laughing. Wright’s speech starts to lose its coherence. She shouts “Forrest Gump” repeatedly, then “I’m a ninja – it’s not funny.” More cries of “Ow!” from Tostee.

Related: Gable Tostee 'caused Warriena Wright's death as much as if he'd pushed her', court told

She goes to leave and he asks her if she wants him to walk her back to her apartment. The music stops and Wright asks where her belongings are. Tostee offers to call her mobile phone. She accuses Tostee of stealing her phone and handbag and an argument breaks out.

“Where’s my f****** s***? I will f******* destroy your jaw. It’s not f***ing funny. I’m going to call the police.”

Tostee says: “I should have never given you so much to drink. I thought we were going to have fun. I don’t deserve this s***. I’m a nice f****** guy.”

Tostee finds her phone and calm returns. Wright says she has money in NZ and gets taken advantage of.

Tostee asks her: “Do you even remember what you were doing to me half an hour ago? You were beating me up for no reason. You thought it was funny.”

He suggests she “sit down for a second so we can discuss”.

“I’ve met some weird people off Tinder. I’m the most tolerant person in the world,” he said.

Wright says she would help anyone in need. Tostee says she’s “a bit violent though”.

Wright talks about taking a look out the window, and Tostee tells her: “Don’t jump off or anything.”

Wright shrieks “help” in a mock high-pitched voice, adding that she’s only joking. Tostee tells her the “men in white coats” are coming.

“You’re kind of mental, but in a really cute way,” he tells her.

Wright goes to the bathroom and Tostee whispers into his phone: “God help me. S***.”

Wright returns. Slurring her words, she begins whispering to Tostee about “Sam”, later exhorting him to: “Bow down to Sam.”

He yells “Ouch” then “I’ll bow down.”

That signals Tostee’s apparent switch from annoyance to anger.

He tells her: “That’s more than enough. You’ve worn out your welcome. You’re not my kind of girl. You have to leave.”

The balcony of Gable Tostee’s 14th floor Surfers Paradise apartment. © Provided by Guardian News The balcony of Gable Tostee’s 14th floor Surfers Paradise apartment.

In Tostee’s account, his tackling of Wright to the floor of the apartment follows her striking him with a telescope.

The prosecution claims that is when the sound consistent with Tostee choking Wright can be heard, which he denies.

“You are lucky I haven’t chucked you off my balcony, you goddamn psycho little b****,” he says.

“Who the f*** do you think I am? Yeah, do your muay thai now.”

Wright, her mouth sounding muffled, says he is sexist.

“I’m the one who’s injured. You don’t have a goddamn scratch on you,” Tostee says.

“I thought you were just playing around. But you’re psycho. Goddamn psycho.

“I’m going to let you go, I’m going to walk you out of this apartment just the way you are. You’re not going to collect any of your belongings or anything, you’re just going to walk out and I’m going to slam the door on you. You understand? If you try and pull anything I’ll knock you out. I’ll knock you the f*** out.”

Tostee tells Wright to “get up”.

“I’m sorry,” Wright says.

“I don’t care. Get up,” Tostee says.

Tostee, apparently still restraining Wright, tells her over and over: “You don’t understand do you?”

“You think you can hit me and I just fall down like in the movies?

Wright tells him repeatedly to “Let go”.

Tostee: “Who the f*** do you think you are?”

Wright: “No, no, no, no … ”

Tostee: “You trying to kill me, huh? Why’d you try and hit me with that, huh?”

Wright is screaming “no” over and over again.

“This is all on recording you know. It’s all being recorded,” Tostee says.

Wright pleads: “Just let me go home.”

Tostee says: “I would but you’ve been a bad girl.”

The glass door clicks shut and Wright’s screams fade. Tostee sighs. Less than 20 seconds pass when Wright screams as she slips from the balcony rail.

Tostee’s barrister, Holt, in his opening address on Monday, told the jury the moment when the screaming Wright was being locked on the balcony was a horrible one to listen to “because you know what comes next”.

But the recording contained a sequence of events that would bear out his client’s innocence of her murder, Holt argued.

“It really is, all in the recording,” he said.

The trial continues.

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