ELON Musk hired a private investigator to dig for dirt on the hero Brit caver he branded “paedo guy” over fears he was another Jeffrey Epstein, court documents reveal.
The Tesla tycoon paid James Howard $50,000 to probe the private life of Vernon Unsworth and claims he was later told he was “wh**emongering young girls.”
The pair clashed when the Brit accused Musk of grandstanding by offering to help his diving team rescue 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand in July 2018.
In retaliation, Musk tweeted: “Sorry pedo guy, you asked for it.”
Unsworth is now suing Musk in Los Angeles federal court, saying Musk falsely branded him a paedophile and child rapist. The trial is scheduled for December 2.
Musk has also claimed in his native South Africa “pedo” is commonly used to describe a “creepy old man”.
However, it appears that the reports from the investigator were incorrect. In subsequent court documents Musk states that the investigator may have led him astray.
In his court filing, Musk asks the judge for a summary judgement – which was refused – and explains all the reasons why he thinks he is innocent of defamation.
The legal documents state: “The investigator reported that Mr Unsworth was a fixture in Pattaya Beach, Thailand, a locale notorious for prostitution and child trafficking.”
It goes on “that he had a taste for young Thai girls, that he w**remongered his way through the go-go bars of Thailand, that his only friends were his ‘sexpat’ peers.”
Twelve young boys were successfully rescued in the operation[/caption]
It also states “that he married his Thai wife when she was a teenager, after starting a relationship when she was a young girl.”
The allegations come after the Mail Online obtained a motion Musk filed in a California court on Monday.
Specifically, Musk testified that he sent e-mails to Buzzfeed due to a concern over what he heard about Unsworth.
Musk said in the deposition: “And I was like, well, what if this is a real situation? What if what we have here is another Jeffrey Epstein.
“We should, you know – I have this – I am told this information. I don’t know if it is true.
“But what if we have another Jeffrey Epstein on our hands? And what if he uses whatever celebrity he gains from this cave rescue to shield his bad deeds? This would be terrible.”
In the deposition, Musk also said he now believes that the private investigator led him astray, and was “just taking us for a ride.”
Musk also attempted to play down the user of the word “paedo” arguing the word just means “creepy old man” in his home country.
After failing to have the lawsuit dismissed, lawyers acting on behalf of Musk have now argued the term “pedo guy” was not an accusation of being a paedophile.
In documents, lawyers say “pedo guy” was a “common insult” used during Musk’s upbringing in South Africa and he thought it was synonymous with “creepy old man” and “aimed at insulting one’s appearance and demeanour”.
The legal documents add: “There is no evidence that Mr Musk intended or believed that his July 15 tweets, that Mr Unsworth was ‘sus’ or ‘pedo guy’, would be interpreted as fact.
“To the contrary, the evidence is that Mr Musk believed and intended his statements to be read as what they were: bare insults.”
Musk had sent additional tweets after the “pedo guy” post, including one saying he would bet someone a “signed dollar” the alleged accusation was true.
His lawyers argue his tweet cannot be defamatory because the statement was not made with “malice”, a requirement of the US constitution’s First Amendment.
MOST READ IN NEWS
The row between Musk and Mr Unsworth began after the diver dismissed his offer to help and said he could “stick his submarine where it hurts” on July 13 last year.
Musk responded by accusing him of being a “pedo”. He later deleted the tweet.
Mr Unsworth, 64, has a “significant other” in Thailand, a 40-year-old woman, according to the lawsuit, which asks for 75,000 US dollars (£57,000).
He started going to Thailand in 2011, where he explored and mapped caves, the documents said.
In June, Mr Unsworth, a financial consultant, was made an MBE for his service to cave diving.