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Garside’s mother commented at the end of this article:

<<Kate Garside agrees. She says Ruscoe should be charged with making a false statement to police.

“As a woman, I feel that she’s just taking away from those women that are actually being affected by domestic violence. I feel that there’s too much of that happening at the moment and if people realise that there is a consequence for making false allegations, then maybe it would only be the people that are actually dealing with it that would report to police and not those that are wanting five minutes of fame or money, or just to get back at their ex-partner. But there doesn’t seem to be any ramifications for making false allegations at all.”

And if her son didn’t have those videos and recordings?

“He’d have been charged with whatever she was accusing him of. It would be her word against his, and as she said: ‘They’ll believe me. Because I’m the girl’.”>>

23 August 2023

When star boxer Harry Garside locked himself in the spare room of a Sydney apartment and hit “send” on his phone, launching off to his mum a 33-second video of an argument with his girlfriend, he couldn’t know he’d just saved his boxing career.

Not that it would spare him being very publicly arrested and shamed for the “assault” he had just filmed; not that it would stop Boxing Australia suspending him from competition; and not that he will ever recoup much of the $500,000 he lost in sponsorships.

But the cautionary tale of how Garside came so close to losing everything – including his freedom – is the latest of many that raise uncomfortable questions about whether police and prosecutors are properly investigating allegations before pursuing charges.

As the now 25-year-old boxer discovered, even a petty argument – in the hands of a skilled liar – can be ­manipulated to destroy a career.

The colourful, heart-on-sleeve athlete was on the ascent, both in and out of the ring, when his ­trajectory was suddenly and stunningly derailed.

Garside had won gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics – Australia’s first Olympic boxing medal in three decades.

READ MORE: Charges dropped against Olympic boxer | ‘Vindicated’: Next move for Olympic boxer | Garside’s ex charged with domestic violence | Fiery exchange as Garside’s ex fronts court

But it was his flamboyant personality and his challenge to gender stereotypes that were gaining him wider attention.

The one-time plumber has raised eyebrows in the boxing community by taking up ballet to develop his strength – mental and physical. He sometimes paints his nails and wears gowns and dresses to Sydney’s red-carpet events.

During a stint on reality show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! Garside declared he was straight and “very comfortable in my own skin”, but had ­experienced a lot of homophobia.

“It has been quite an interesting rollercoaster for me over the last few years, I guess embracing more of my feminine energy, which is ­actually where I think I sit more often,” he said.

Garside turned up at the GQ Men of the Year Awards last year dressed in a pleated grey skirt, long black boots and bare-chested under a formal black jacket.

On that occasion Garside was arm in arm with his then girlfriend, Ashley Ruscoe.

Garside and Ashley Ruscoe. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Ruscoe is a wellness coach and fitness expert, with more than 26,000 followers on Instagram, thanks to a role on the 2019 season of Ten Network’s The Amazing Race. The now 35-year-old martial arts expert – with a black belt in karate – runs a self-defence business called Hit Like a Girl.

A fixture on Sydney’s social scene, Ruscoe had been in ­relationships with a number of high-profile men, including Sidney Pierucci, her partner in The Amazing Race.

That relationship ended ­unhappily when Ruscoe claimed Pierucci had assaulted her in her Bellevue Hill apartment in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Pierucci was charged but escaped without a conviction after pleading guilty to a minor charge.

Ruscoe and Sidney Pierucci. Picture: Instagram

Ruscoe provided regular updates on the scandal to the media, including an interview with The Daily Telegraph in which she ­announced: “I’m definitely back on the scene … Guys are relentless, shameless, they just go for it. I love it.”

But when she and then 23-year-old Garside met on Instagram in early 2021, it seemed to be love at first sight, despite the nine-year age gap. When the boxer left for the Tokyo Olympics, they spoke every day on FaceTime.

The pair met up again in Sydney, and in March last year Garside moved into Ruscoe’s Bellevue Hill apartment.

Earlier this year, Garside decided he was going to devote himself to winning gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Ruscoe was unhappy. They’d talked about having children, but for Garside that was much further down the track. He had a dream and was intent on pursuing it.

The couple announced they were splitting up but continued to meet – and have sex.

On March 1 this year, when Garside returned from a month-long trip to Europe, Ruscoe sent him a text saying: “Ok, let’s try really rough sex, Like semi bash me hahaha, Like maybe a slight black eye.” Garside declined. Later that day they met at the apartment to discuss their relationship. They had an argument. It started outside the flat, continued inside and became increasingly heated.

Garside and Ruscoe training at Woolloomooloo PCYC in Sydney. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Garside won’t discuss the incident while court proceedings are afoot, but the details are now all on record.

Ruscoe grabbed a suitcase Garside hadn’t unpacked from his trip and threatened to take it outside and burn some of his things. Garside, concerned things were getting out of hand, recorded two short video clips on his phone. Garside says he made these recordings because he was worried Ruscoe would try to suggest he was the aggressor.

The first video shows Ruscoe coming out of a room towards Garside holding the suitcase, then dropping it when she realises he is filming her. After Garside retreated into the bathroom the second clip, which runs for 33 seconds, shows Ruscoe lunging to grab his phone as he pleads with her to stop.

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“You’re psychotic,” Garside says, “stop f..king touching me like that … stop, stop, stop, leave me alone, leave me alone.”

When Garside tried to leave the apartment, an increasingly aggressive Ruscoe shut the front door and told him he couldn’t leave until he deleted the videos of her.

Garside headed for the spare room, locked the door, and quickly sent the videos to his mother via Facebook.

When he unlocked the door and came out, Garside showed Ruscoe he was deleting the videos.

Only then did she let him leave the apartment.

Going to police

Kate Garside was at work in Melbourne when she saw a message from Harry pop up on her phone.

That wasn’t unusual. Harry happily admits to being a mother’s boy. Kate, a business manager, is often ringside at his fights, although she finds it difficult to watch, even now.

Harry, one of three boys, began boxing when he was nine but Kate had hoped it was “just a phase”.

“He says it was to show his brothers and his dad that he was actually tough because he was into doing things with me more than going out playing with their dad, fixing cars and motorbikes and doing that sort of thing,” Kate says. “He wasn’t into that, so he wanted to get into boxing to prove to his brothers and his dad that he was a real man.”

Kate travelled to Perth last weekend to watch her son win another fight on the way to his Olympic dream. “I still hate watching it. He was fighting last night and I couldn’t even watch it on the screen,” she says.

Garside with mum Kate. Picture: Philip Gostelow

Back in March, when Kate clicked open the video Harry sent, she thought at first it was a prank, because Ruscoe appears to be laughing.

“I went on doing whatever I was doing, and then something made me think, ‘no, that’s different’,” Kate says. “So I turned on the volume and watched it in full and couldn’t believe what was going on.

“She was attacking him inside the bathroom on the video. So I was very shocked by what I saw. And rang Harry and he didn’t answer his phone. My boss was there and the girl that I work with, and they said ‘you need to save those videos’.”

Kate called her son after he’d left the apartment.

“I was worried about him. She was saying, ‘go on, Harry, go to the cops because they won’t believe you. They’ll believe me. I’m the girl’.”

“Harry just said ‘I couldn’t fight back because I’m a boxer; even if I had just tried to stop her with my hand, I would’ve been charged with assault’.”

Garside on professional debut against Sachin Mudaliar in 2021 in Sydney. Picture: Getty Images

The next day, March 2, Garside told Ruscoe he’d sent the video to his mother. By now he’d also decided it would be wise to record their conversations.

AR: What’s the video say?

HG: It’s a video of you attacking me.

AR: It’s a video of me, I could literally take you to court for this.

HG: Ok, do it then, do it

AR: 100 per cent. I can call the cops right now, and they will take you. This will go on your record and this will go straight to the Daily Mail and this will ruin your f..king image. I could literally with this call ruin your career, trust me.

HG: I haven’t done anything wrong.

AR: It doesn’t matter, Harry, ’cause once it’s out there and it’s in the newspaper, that a boxer got dragged out from my house, it doesn’t matter that you (haven’t) done anything wrong, this will go against your career

HG: I haven’t done anything wrong

AR: Do you want to go down this path, ’cause I will literally do it right now.

HG: Do it then, I have never once touched you

AR: It doesn’t matter if you haven’t touched me, if you get caught, if I call the police and say he’s here and I’ve shown them all messages of me saying get out of my house, get out of my house, please leave me alone, if I show them those messages to the police, they will drag you out

HG: Ok

AR: I’m not kidding, Harry, you don’t want to go down this path it will f..k up your career and it will … f..k up your reputation.

Ruscoe continues to taunt him that no one will believe him because he’s male and a boxer.

She warns him not to talk about her on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, the TV show he’s about to film in South Africa.

“If you say anything on I’m A Celebrity, I will come for you. I will come for you. So make sure you say nothing,” she tells him in one exchange.

It wasn’t a far-fetched fear. Garside likes to talk. He describes himself as an over-sharer. But he wasn’t about to go on a TV show, he says, and trash a woman he once loved.

Garside stayed at the apartment in the spare bedroom for a couple of days after the argument, then moved out to an Airbnb “because it was a bit volatile inside the apartment”.

Over the next couple of weeks the pair nevertheless met up and had sex several times.

“Things seemed fine, things seemed okay,” Garside says, “but we obviously knew that the relationship wasn’t salvageable.”

The last time they had any contact was on March 15, when Ruscoe sent him a parting shot:

“Think about what you’re doing, Harry. This will ruin your career, as I will 100 per cent charge you with common assault and then sue you for defamation. And you can say goodbye to any brand deals and public image.”

Garside left for South Africa three weeks after the incident, on March 25, to film I’m a Celebrity.

Ruscoe went to the police the same day.

Kate Garside has no doubts why she did it.

“I think she was in such fear that Harry would say something that it would ruin her reputation, that she sort of thought, well, I’ll throw the first punch here and go to the police.”

Into the jungle

As soon as he landed in South Africa Garside’s phone lit up with messages from friends who told him Ruscoe had gone to the police about “a domestic violence issue”. There were no more details. Garside put it out of his mind as he knew he’d done nothing wrong.

When filming on the reality show began on March 29, the producers took his phone. He would be out of contact with the rest of the world for a month.

True to his word, Garside said nothing on the show about Ruscoe. He emerged from the jungle on April 30, having been second to champion netballer Liz Ellis.

The show was a hit and so was Harry. Offers were flooding in from businesses wanting to do sponsorships or other commercial arrangements.

He got his phone back but there was no more news on Ruscoe’s complaint; Garside assumed the police had seen it for what it was.

He flew back to Australia on May 2 with his dad, Shaun, who’d been a surprise visitor on the show. Garside uploaded a happy shot of the two of them sitting in Qantas business class. “Had to upgrade my best mate to business with me. His first time flying business,” he wrote on the post. “Money comes and goes, memories with loved ones last forever.”

Garside with dad Shaun. Picture: Instagram

They were headed for home in Melbourne, stopping over in Sydney to change flights. In Sydney, they picked up their bags and as they lined up to clear Customs a Customs officer said: “Harry, come through here.”

Garside assumed he’d been recognised from the show, and thought he was about to be fast-tracked, thinking: “How good is this?”

But he was quickly separated from his father and ushered into a room where four police officers were waiting.

“My heart drops, I’m thinking, ‘have I got something in my suitcase?’. I was really scared.”

Two detectives told him he was being arrested.

“Coming off one of the best experiences of my life and into that situation, I felt like a scared little boy,” he admits. “I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I also knew that me being a male, it doesn’t look good at all and I was just really scared that maybe no one would believe me or the evidence wasn’t enough, and I sort of went into a bit of a panic.”

Garside explained to the police what had happened in the incident with Ruscoe and that he had video evidence. It didn’t help. The police had a copy of a message he’d sent Ruscoe in which he admitted spitting in her direction. It hadn’t been his finest moment but, as he explained to the detectives, it was the only thing he could think of doing to stop her attack without touching her.

It’s clear that in the same message Ruscoe acknowledges attacking him and spitting back at him.

Garside was arrested anyway.

The police took him out of the airport through a back loading ramp used by celebrities and others wanting to avoid media waiting in the main arrivals area.

Garside leaving Sydney International Airport with NSW Police officers. Picture: Jonathan Ng

A Daily Telegraph photographer was at the exit and took shots of Garside being led into a police car. Someone was also shooting video on a phone.

Garside doesn’t believe the paper just got lucky.

“If I was a betting man I’d definitely put money on the media being tipped off,” he says.

“She planned it,” says Kate Garside. “She waited until he left to make the allegations. Why was it such a public display of arrest on her word of him spitting? That, surely, doesn’t warrant what happened to him so publicly?”

The detectives took him to Mascot police station, where he was fingerprinted and had mugshots taken before being placed in a cell for two hours.

Garside was charged with common assault and served with an apprehended violence order.

When he was released, still clutching the Akubra he’d worn on the reality show, there were TV cameras outside the police station.

The police had taken his phone, so he couldn’t contact his worried family waiting in Melbourne.

Garside’s arrest was featured on the front pages of The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun in an article written by the same journalist who previously broke the story of Ruscoe’s charges against Sidney Pierucci.

Another piece featured a profile of Ruscoe with what appeared to be a set-up paparazzi-style shot of her “snapped in Surry Hills” the day before.

Ruscoe was also interviewed by a reporter from the Seven Network who seemingly “door-stopped” her. Asked if she was surprised Garside had been charged, Ruscoe replied: “No.”

Garside’s lawyer, Rebekah Giles, later noted in a six-page letter to Ruscoe setting out the false statements she made to police: “You did not look surprised to be interviewed, and your appearance gives rise to an inference that you in fact prepared for and planned being so interviewed.”

Garside arrived in Melbourne shattered. His brother and sister-in-law had had a baby while he was in South Africa and he went straight to visit his new nephew.

“He was trying to be all jolly because he was meeting his nephew for the first time but he was not himself, he wasn’t good,” says Kate. “And he really questioned everything. His reputation was hanging in the balance and he just didn’t know what to do.”

Garside was suspended by Boxing Australia and the Victorian Institute of Sport, where he had a scholarship. His Olympic dream looked to be over.

The Australian Olympic Committee’s team membership agreement states athletes must not be convicted of or charged with any serious offence involving violence, or engage in any conduct which brings their sport into disrepute.

Now Garside was on the front page of newspapers around the country with headlines that read: CELEB TO SUSPECT and BOXING STAR’S DV SPAT. Camera crews and photographers were camped outside the family home in Mooroolbark.

Almost overnight, he’d lost close to $500,000 worth of sponsorship deals.

“I understand the world we live in now and no company can be seen to be supporting domestic violence and I totally understand that, but it was a stressful time,” he says. “I was a kid who grew up with not much money and I was starting to get opportunities, and to lose them, I was so shattered and heartbroken. I felt like I was just coming back to square one.”

The tables turn

Three weeks after Garside was charged, Giles wrote to police alleging her client had been “the subject of a spiteful and malicious campaign by Ms Ruscoe to damage his reputation following the breakdown of their relationship”.

Ruscoe had told police Garside “clipped” her jaw during the argument but Giles pointed out there was no reference to this by either of them in the video or subsequent audio recordings. If there was any physical contact at all between them it was unintentional while she was struggling to grab his phone, Giles contended.

Ruscoe’s allegations to police were “a pre-emptive measure” against Garside in anticipation of him making negative comments about her on the show, Giles said.

On June 7 police formally withdrew the assault charge and the ADVO proceedings.

Garside’s high-profile silk, Sue Chrysanthou SC, told the court: “There shouldn’t have been any charges in this case, but my client is content with the speed at which (the prosecution) has moved.”

Outside court, Garside said he felt vindicated and thanked police for “reviewing the overwhelming evidence” in his favour.

“You never hope this happens, especially from someone that you loved and were in a relationship with, but I am grateful that I did have the foresight to get that evidence,” he said.

Garside with lawyers Rebekah Giles, left, and Sue Chrysanthou. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

Ruscoe was arrested in Sydney’s east on July 13 and charged with common assault and stalking Garside. She pleaded not guilty to the domestic violence-related offences at Sydney Downing Centre Local Court and was granted conditional bail.

She has now also been charged with distributing intimate images of Garside to another person without consent and will appear in court on Wednesday.

It is understood police have taken out an AVO on Garside’s behalf, which is also listed for hearing on Wednesday.

On Friday the Daily Mail published paparazzi pictures of Garside waiting at a cafe for his new girlfriend, which appeared to show Ruscoe and a friend laughing as they looked in his direction.

Boxing Australia and the Victorian Institute of Sport have now lifted their Garside suspensions.

Some sponsors have come back to Team Garside, but mud sticks.

Garside’s legal team has collected social media posts where Ruscoe is, it says, continuing to target Garside.

Giles says that in cases where investigating or prosecuting authorities have been deliberately misled – particularly where habitual offenders are concerned – police should, as a matter of public policy, prosecute complainants for making a false report.

“It is critical that these offenders are brought to justice so that the limited resources of police and prosecutors are focused on genuine complaints,” she said.

Ruscoe leaves Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court in July. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

There are cases where malicious lies are concocted by a party with the sole intent to damage an accused, she said, an objective often achieved even if the defendant is exonerated.

“The accuser – even when faced with clear evidence of dishonesty – walks away from the devastation caused with the protection of anonymity and little remorse, having achieved their intended objective of publicly smearing the reputation of the accused, who is left emotionally and financially depleted.”

Kate Garside agrees. She says Ruscoe should be charged with making a false statement to police.

“As a woman, I feel that she’s just taking away from those women that are actually being affected by domestic violence. I feel that there’s too much of that happening at the moment and if people realise that there is a consequence for making false allegations, then maybe it would only be the people that are actually dealing with it that would report to police and not those that are wanting five minutes of fame or money, or just to get back at their ex-partner. But there doesn’t seem to be any ramifications for making false allegations at all.”

And if her son didn’t have those videos and recordings?

“He’d have been charged with whatever she was accusing him of. It would be her word against his, and as she said: ‘They’ll believe me. Because I’m the girl’.”



Janet Albrechtsen is an opinion columnist with The Australian. She has worked as a solicitor in commercial law, and attained a Doctorate of Juridical Studies from the University of Sydney. She has written for numer… Read more



Stephen Rice started his newspaper career at The Sydney Morning Herald before moving into television, where he became executive producer of Nine’s Business Sunday programs. He has worked as a senior investigative p… Read more

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