The girlfriend of former Sydney nightclub owner John Ibrahim has been found not guilty of unlawful gun possession – a day after being cleared of similar charges and two years after the pistol was found in her bedroom.
Model and restaurateur Sarah Budge, 29, had testified she’d not known a stolen and defaced Glock 26 pistol and loaded magazine was stashed inside a teapot box inside her Double Bay unit’s bedroom wardrobe.
Police, who found the weapons in August 2017 during coordinated raids on homes linked to the Ibrahim family, and the prosecution were convinced Budge knew the gun was there all along.
But late on Wednesday, the fourth day of deliberations, a Sydney jury of 11 people returned a not guilty verdict to unlawful gun possession.
Budge wept and shook as the jury was asked for their verdict on Wednesday before leaning into her hands in relief when “not guilty” was announced.
The same jury on Tuesday cleared her of two other charges alleging Budge knew about the ammunition and that the gun’s serial number had been scratched out.
The six-year relationship between Budge and the 51-year-old Mr Ibrahim, who maintain separate residences, played a prominent role in the District Court trial as her defence argued the gun was likely brought into the unit without her knowledge by Mr Ibrahim or one of his associates.
Budge’s lawyer Simon Buchen SC said Mr Ibrahim had often treated his girlfriend “with contempt” during their relationship.
He pointed to a conversation the couple had right after Budge was arrested and bailed, in which Budge says Mr Ibrahim said he knew how the gun ended up in the apartment but declined to say any more.
Mr Ibrahim often said little in text messages presented to the jury, including “What” when Budge called him an “asshole” for announcing live on radio he was single in July 2017.
Days later, after the couple made up and his book, Last King of the Cross, was published, Budge asked her boyfriend what he’d been up to.
“Why r u being mean and ignoring me suddenly…. u said to call u and you ignoring?…” she messaged hours later.
“Not answering means I don’t want to talk u annoying f***,” Mr Ibrahim replied.
“Stop with the f***ing questions, just relax,” Mr Ibrahim messaged the next day.
Budge told the jury she kept her spare set of keys at Mr Ibrahim’s house and she suspected he used them once, as his laptop appeared on her bed.
But Mr Buchen SC said the jurors may not respect the relationship “but that is her relationship”.
Judge David Arnott SC had told the jury they couldn’t judge Budge on her relationship.
“This is not a court of morals. It is a court of law,” he said.
Mr Buchen told the jury if Mr Ibrahim could act with such contempt towards Budge, he was the kind of person who could hide the gun in her wardrobe.
The prosecution had argued that it was too implausible that Budge didn’t know the gun was in her unit.
Crown prosecutor Christopher Taylor asked the jury to consider where they would hide a gun and suggested “prime shoe territory” was too obvious a place.
Her fingerprints were on the paper pharmacy bag containing the magazine, though DNA evidence on the trigger pointed to an unknown male.
Mr Ibrahim was never charged over the weapons or the same-day raid of his Dover Heights mansion, as part of a federal police investigation into an alleged tobacco smuggling ring.