Gable Tostee Reveals his Guilt in Warriena Wrights Death
A recent request to analyse Gable Tostee’s behaviour and statements from a 60 Minutes interview with Liam Bartlett, led me through an emotional journey of surprise, contempt, sadness, disgust and anger–almost all of the universal expressions of emotion. How could this case have ended up with an acquittal?
I vaguely recalled hearing about the case at the time, but I hadn’t seen any footage prior to watching this. I have to warn you, in parts it’s horrific–hearing an audio recording of Warriena Wright, the victim, screaming in anguish and pleading to be allowed to go home. Shortly after, Wright plunged to her death from the balcony of Tostee’s 14th storey apartment. To watch the video, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Interestingly, my analysis of Tostee’s nonverbal behaviour coincided with the publication of a groundbreaking research article, which brings to light new evidence that microexpressions occur with enough frequency to differentiate truthtellers from liars, (Matsumoto & Hwang 2018). This is the first study to back up decades of claims from scientists that microexpressions are the key to deception detection. We’ll talk more about this in another post.
As usual, I write not only to help get to the truth, but also to share my knowledge so you can use this powerful skill within your interactions.
Statement Analysis and Body Language Analysis
My expertise is in nonverbal communication and body language analysis, however, last year I worked on a murder case, in which I had access to interview transcripts. I wanted to see how much additional information can be discovered using this technique, comparable to nonverbal communication analysis. So I got my study head on, took a course and tried it out. Initially, I’d had my reservations. However, it did reveal some interesting findings. There seemed no overlap between the two types of analysis, but together they are incredibly complementary. Both techniques revealed a host of information that the other didn’t. I’ll write more about my findings in another post.
In this article, I’ll reveal the most concerning behaviours and statements, and those which are most relevant to the potential murder or manslaughter of Wright.
Gable Tostee Inadvertently Reveals a Level of Guilt
Approximate Time on Video: 3:19
“Were you worried?”
(referring to the trial)
“Well, it doesn't matter how innocent a person is, there is absolutely no comfort in being on trial for murder.”
There are a few things concerning me here, the main one being in Tostee’s statement, “it doesn't matter how innocent a person is”. This suggests that in Tostee’s mind, there is a scale of innocence. It isn’t black and white–innocent or guilty. Instead, there is a somewhere in between–and that’s where he lies. Given the topic of discussion revolves around the potential murder or manslaughter of Wright, this is somewhat alarming. Tostee feels partly guilty? How much so?
Also, notice he uses distancing language, “how innocent a person is”. He is deliberately distancing himself from his statement and the case, failing to give a direct answer to the question. We would expect an innocent person to give a direct and honest reply, in this case, we’d expect to hear how they felt emotionally and personally.
Another concern is his head shake, as he states, “how innocent a person is”. Had he started to shake his head earlier, as he stated, “it doesn’t matter…”, I wouldn't be concerned. His nonverbal behaviour would have been in alignment with his words. Nonverbal behaviour occurs within the moment of the stimulus, so his head shake corresponds directly to, “how innocent a person is”. Does this suggest he believes he isn’t innocent? Here, both his statement and nonverbal behaviours point towards the same place–some level of guilt.
Gable continues his statement, “there is absolutely no comfort in being on trial for murder”, with a congruent head shake.
Approximate Time on Video: 4:06
“I noticed at one stage you boasted of sleeping with 180 different girls.”
“Um, it wasn’t intended to be a boast or anything. And, um, those sorts of figures, um, you know, in this day and age I’m not sure they’re really that uncommon among a lot of guys–”
As Tostee starts his statement, “Um, it wasn’t intended to be…”, he eye-blocks. This nonverbal cue looks like a long blink and indicates discomfort or dislike. He isn’t comfortable with or doesn’t like the question. This is a very common nonverbal response, one which most of us would see almost daily, as we interact with others. It’s nothing to be concerned about, but it helps us to understand where his upcoming aggression stems from.
On the word “intended”, we see a very subtle one-sided shoulder shrug on Tostee’s left shoulder. This is almost undetectable to the human eye, but slow down the video, and you’re more likely to spot it. A one-sided shoulder shrug shows a lack of confidence in the words spoken at the time. It’s an involuntary nonverbal response, one which points towards deception. Tostee isn’t being honest when he says “it wasn’t intended to be a boast…”.
Tostee continues, “And, um…”, his eyes avert downwards, usually seen in the expressions of sadness and shame. There are other elements of the sadness expression, in the downturned mouth, and very subtly in the shape of the eyebrows.
Then, Tostee takes another emotional turn and begins to feel anger. His emotions, within seconds, have switched through dislike, sadness, shame and now anger. This sounds a lot, but it’s perfectly normal. Our emotions switch quickly from one to another, depending on where the conversation goes and how it, and our internal thoughts, impact emotional state. Normal, spontaneous emotional expressions last between half a second and 6 seconds. Whereas, suppressed, repressed or concealed emotions flash over the face, in what we refer to as a microexpression–an expression which is shorter than half a second.
We start to see his anger as Tostee states, “those sorts of figures, um…”. It starts with a subtle tension in the lips, followed by a nostril flare–a primitive response which is often seen before physical activity, like running from something or before a fight.
The nostril flare occurs as Tostee takes in oxygen to fuel the potential physical activity–a clear audible, deep inhale, then an immediate deep exhale–a tension release. Both the inhale and exhale are accompanied by a chin jut. This is an aggressive behaviour, usually seen before a fight. These behaviours and the degree to which we see them are not common in the lives of most people. We see a final fleeting anger expression, seen in both the mouth and eyebrows, before Tostee takes control over his emotion, neutralising his emotional expression with a widening of the eyes.
Tostee’s gaze turns upwards making eye contact with Bartlett. He gives him a direct cold, angry stare as he states “in this day and age…”. There’s an underlying smirk. It’s what we call ‘dupers delight’, we do this when we feel like we’ve got away with something. He has. Tostee has quickly pulled his emotion together, regaining control in an attempt at a dig towards Bartlett.
This play of power is interesting. Would an innocent person need to do this? I haven’t seen much of Tostee’s behaviour, but this hints towards a personality in which control is important. The need for control usually stems from deep-rooted insecurities.
“What you think a lot of guys–”
“a lot of single guys, yeah, it’s not really a surprising figure.”
Tostee re-states his words, adding, “single guys”. It’s an attempt to soften his statement, but there are still elements of anger, seen in the mouth, as well as in a microexpression in the narrowing of his eyes.
While this conversation doesn’t seem to hold relevance to the case itself, other than painting a picture about Tostee’s lifestyle, I’ve included it because it gives us insight into Tostee’s personality. It’s also important to note that Bartlett’s question, possibly one which Tostee could have anticipated, provokes fairly extreme, aggressive, nonverbal responses. This gives us additional insight into Tostee’s easy-to-tip tolerance levels, and, is perhaps indicative of an inability to contain emotion to the same level as most people.
What’s more, what we hear–an extreme inhale/exhale–is also audible in another, more concerning, part of the interview–during an audio recording, before and after Wright’s final scream is heard as she plunges to her death. This is absolutely relevant to the case.
Gable Tostee Records his Night with Warriena Wright
Approximate Time on Video: 6:30
At five to one in the morning, on the night, you hit the record button on your phone. Why did you do that?
“Well, the question isn’t so much why did I do that, but, why wouldn’t you do that? Because, I, obviously I used to go out, um, quite a lot drinking, um, I don’t have the best memory when I’m, when I drink, and in this day and age hitting record is, I mean recording your night out is as easy as pressing a button and leaving your phone in your pocket. Um–”
Tostee starts his reply with “Well” and a relatively long pause. He’s buying time as he tries to formulate a response. While ‘well’ as a word, is part of verbal communication, the pause–the way in which we deliver our words–is classed as nonverbal communication.
Tostee scrambles to find the right words to articulate his response, often pausing for time and to rethink his statement–note several false starts. What’s also interesting is his distancing language in the first part of this statement, “Well, the question isn’t so much why did I do that, but, why wouldn’t you do that?”. He switches from ‘I’, to ‘you’. Overall, this part of the statement is an attempt to manipulate Bartlett and viewers, into thinking this is a common thing to do.
Tostee flashes an expression of contempt–a tightening of one side of the mouth. This occurs right in the middle of, “obviously I used to go out, um, quite a lot drinking, um, I don’t have the best memory when I’m, when I drink…”. There is an issue of contention here. We can automatically assume that either he is bothered by the amount he drinks, the amount he goes out drinking or the fact that he doesn’t remember things after drinking.
However, it could be something else. We don’t know what is running through Tostee’s mind, parallel to his statement. It’s possible the issue stems from somewhere else. For example, is it his family that are bothered by his drinking? If his family have expressed this to him, he could be feeling contempt because he has let them down. We have already seen hints of controlling behaviour, which typically stem from insecurity. Nonverbal communication analysis can’t tell us what the issue is, but it can serve as a guide to get to the truth, via further questioning or seeking of evidence. What’s more, it gives an accurate and reliable picture of emotional state, which in turn can give us clues into the bigger picture of his personality.
“But what for?”
“It’s more of a just in case thing because you’re better off having something and not needing it, than needing something and not having it.”
“Just in case what?”
“Just in case, well, you know, the thing that happened on 8th Aug 2014 is a perfect example.”
This is a distancing statement. Tostee can’t bring himself to mention Wright or the fact that she plunged to her death that night. Instead, he only mentions the date it occurred. He is being avoidant. Being avoidant and distancing is perfectly normal behaviour for a guilty person, less so for an innocent person. Let’s not forget, Tostee has already shown us he feels some level of guilt.
We can also gain insight from Tostee’s head shake, which starts as he states, “is a perfect example”. Since nonverbal communication happens within the moment, this could only mean one thing. Let’s get to that in a moment.
When we see a nonverbal response which is at odds with verbal communication, we always take the nonverbal as truth. Why? Because nonverbal communication is our primary means of communication–we are all born with the ability to communicate nonverbally, and we do so one hundred percent of the time, for the first nine or ten months of our life, it’s deeply ingrained within all of us. Whereas, language is learned–it’s a manmade concept.
Nonverbal communication doesn’t stem from the area of the brain responsible for spoken language and cognitive processing, it’s more primitive, arising from our drive to survive. So while our sentences are deliberately constructed our nonverbal communication is a more honest and reliable indicator of true emotion. Let’s face it, few of us are aware of what we are doing with our body, face and voice at any given time.
Let’s come back to this head shake–what does it tell us? It tells us that the reason Tostee records his dates or interactions isn’t just in case something like what happened that night occurs. Why does he do it then? We can assume he does it often, given his statement. Is it to boast? Is it to remember what happened? Is it to learn from–social skills, mistakes, etc.? Has he been threatened before–has someone accused him of rape or abuse–is it to protect himself? Does he post them online, or in chat forums? Whatever it is, he doesn’t want us to know the truth–it’s a lie of omission.
My first port of call would be to investigate whether recording dates with women was common practice for Tostee. I suspect it is. Which raises another question, are these women aware of it? And, has footage of them been posted online or shared with others? Previous recordings would also give us insight into his personality and patterns of behaviour.
Gable Tostee and Warriena Wright–The Audio Recording
Approximate Time on Video: 7:35
Bartlett plays a part of the recording from the night.
“Have, have a good n, have a good night. I, I’ve closed–”
Wright sounds extremely intoxicated. She’s apparently been drinking all night. We know they took a six pack home, and Tostee claims Wright carried on drinking ‘moonshine’. I have to raise the question–was Wright tested for, and cleared of any other substances, which she could have taken deliberately or inadvertently? Tostee had invited Wright to his apartment and as the video suggests they bypassed local nightlife, going back to his apartment after picking up a six pack.
We can assume that Tostee planned to have sex with Wright, given his previous behaviour of ‘sleeping with 180 different girls’. Had this been Wright’s intention too? Had Tostee invited her back so quickly to have control over the amount of alcohol she consumed, out of view of the public, or even spike her drink?
Even if Wright had ‘climbed over’ the balcony herself, with the intention to get away from him–if Tostee had spiked her drink or deliberately plied her with ‘moonshine’, could this explain his level of guilt? And if so, should he be held accountable for her manslaughter?
Was his apartment searched for drugs? Is there CCTV footage of him disposing of drugs? What was the concentration of alcohol, or other ingredients, in the moonshine?
Wright talks over Tostee.
“Are you trying to [inaudible]?”
“the door, no, no, no, do you want me to walk you back home, or?”
At this point in the video, the camera is back on Tostee. He does a quick eye-block, momentarily closing his eyes for slightly longer than a blink, then drops his head and eye gaze.
“No, it’s okay.”
Tostee’s lips tighten, and we see a microexpression of contempt. Is he feeling remorseful? Does he think that things could have played out differently? Or is he re-living the moment and expressing contempt at Wright’s attempt to leave or refusal to be walked home?
“No, come on, don’t be like that.”
Tostee’s voice is soft. He’s using it to pacify Wright, but, at the same time, his statement is manipulative, placing guilt on her for her suggestion to leave or not accepting his offer.
“Just, just have a good night.”
From what we heard from the conversation, Wright suggested her intention to leave–whether a genuine intention or not. And Tostee attempted to spend more time with her.
Bartlett pauses the video.
“So everything’s going okay at this stage, and you’ve offered–”
“At that, at that stage yeah.”
“You’ve offered to walk her back home.”
“Yeah if she was going to go back home, if that was what she wanted to do, I, I, I, I would have been all too happy to walk her back home.”
Tostee hesitates, repeating the word ‘I’, three times, then follows with what looks like a one-sided shoulder shrug as he says “happy”–it’s hard to see but is just about visible in his right shoulder. He probably would have walked her home, but wouldn’t have been ‘happy’ about it–probably because he wanted her to stay.
Bartlett starts the audio again, and we hear Wright asking where her “s***” is. Bartlett’s voiceover explains that Wright accused Tostee of stealing her phone. We hear Wright respond with aggression, then she threatens to “destroy his jaw”. She is angry with Tostee. She clearly believes he has her phone–does he?
If we jump forward to approximately 9:00 minutes on the video, Tostee’s cough is concerning. It doesn’t sound like a genuine cough. People often cough or clear their throat when dealing with something challenging. It comes just after “I was offering to call her phone and help to find it”. This behaviour is often present during deception, but can’t be taken as an indicator of deception because people clear their throat for other reasons. I feel there is something off here. I believe he’s not being completely honest. Was he concealing her phone to prevent her from leaving? Is that why she was so angry?
Gable Tostee Lies About ‘Wrestling’ with Warriena Wright
Let’s skip forward to approximately 10:20 in the video.
On the audio recording of the night, we hear decorative rocks being thrown, muffled noises and what sound’s like Wright, under force, crying out. Tostee’s reaction, a cluster of nonverbal cues, shows an expression of contempt, a self-soothing behaviour with his hands (pacifier) and a shift of position. These are signs of discomfort, and they typically increase with deception.
“It sounds like you’ve tackled her there?”
Tostee gulps, another sign of discomfort, before responding with–
“Um, I think we were just wrestling at the time.”
Tostee’s statement is accompanied by a head shake, incongruent with his words!
I believe Tostee is being deceptive. It doesn’t get more obvious than this. From the audio recording alone, it sounds like Wright is struggling under force. Add to that a significant cluster of nonverbal behaviours of discomfort, and, an incongruent behaviour. It’s highly likely that Tostee is lying.
Shortly after this, the audio recording gets disturbing, with Tostee telling Wright, “You’re lucky I haven’t chucked you off my f***ing balcony, you goddamn psycho little bitch”. Tostee passes this off as an unfortunate choice of words!
What comes next is emotionally difficult to listen to.
It all goes Horribly Wrong for Warriena Wright
Approximate Time on Video: 12:18
“This is where it all goes horribly wrong.”
“This is where I’ve, basically, bundled her up and started to carry her out of the nearest door.”
Tostee is referring to his balcony door. Notice his addition of the word ‘basically’. This is a shortcut, and it’s significant. There’s additional information on his mind that he is omitting–another lie of omission. It’s a red flag, an area in need of further investigation, whether it’s through questioning or seeking of evidence elsewhere. What could it be? Was she restrained, tied-up, threatened with a weapon? The phrase “bundled her up”, in itself, suggests she was restrained, but there’s also something else he’s failing to mention. We shouldn’t take this statement lightly.
The second part is significant too. Overall, what Tostee’s saying is that he bundled her up–by force–and carried her out the nearest door–the balcony. Why would he need her to be on the balcony? He hasn’t removed her from his property, only placed her deeper within it. What’s more, he has forcibly placed her somewhere, which, in the state she was in, was a potential threat to her safety. Somewhere, she was not willing to go. Then it gets worse.
“Who the f*** do you think you are?”
Tostee’s tone is controlling. Wright, with emotional anguish in her voice, cries, “no”, twelve times before Bartlett stops the audio recording. It’s evident in the last two cries we hear her level of anguish elevates. This sounds like a woman fearful for her life, pleading to survive.
We have to ask the question, what was Tostee doing to her on the balcony? And, why would he need take her on the balcony? Was he hanging her over the edge, a nonverbal threat to take her life? This is the only thing that he couldn’t have done to her inside his apartment.
When we look at Tostee’s nonverbal reaction while the audio recording plays, we see microexpressions of contempt and disgust (lip raise), an expression of shame (head and eyes drop downwards), emotional distancing (averted eyes and head direction), an extremely high blink rate (high stress) and a very quick eyelid flutter (emotional turmoil/high cognitive load). Again this is a significant cluster of nonverbal cues.
“We hear Warriena scream ‘no’, 33 times.”
The audio recording resumes and Wright continues to scream. Tostee’s nonverbal display is, once again, rich in emotional expression. Wright makes repetitive pleas to go home, to which Tostee responds–
“I would, but you’ve been a bad girl.”
This is distressing to listen to.
Approximate Time on Video: 13:48
For the second time you had control over her, and you still chose not to use the front door. Why didn’t you just use the front door?
Because, that’s only a question that you can ask in hindsight. When you have to desperately get someone away from you and separate the two of you and try and de, deescalate a, a, a, a, an altercation. It doesn’t come into the equation that that person is going to climb off a balcony and fall 14 floors to their death.”
Before he starts to speak, Tostee flashes and expression of disgust, then uses, “because”, as a filler to buy himself time to formulate his response. What’s interesting is his one-sided shoulder shrug (his left shoulder)as he says, “deescalate an altercation”. His nonverbal behaviour tells us his intention was not to try to ‘deescalate’ the altercation.
What’s more, he scrambles to find words, before he comes up with “an altercation”, stuttering over “a”. Slow the video right down to hear this. After the first ‘a’, what seems to follow is ‘ke’ or ‘ka’ sound. I wonder what he stopped himself from saying–“a k…”, or, “a c..”–what was he going to say?
Notice Tostee’s head shakes when he says, “climb off a balcony and fall 14 floors to their death”. He starts his sentence with, “It doesn’t come into the equation that that person is going to…”. A head shake here would be congruent with his words, however, where it is placed, seems off timing–raising another red flag. There’s one caveat to that–sometimes as people talk, even when they are saying something positive, they shake their head in disbelief.
What did Tostee have in his hand as he left the apartment after Wright’s fall?
Find out in my latest post on Tostee.
Warriena Wright’s Final Scream
As Part 1 of the video draws to an end, Bartlett plays the clip of Warriena’s final scream. This brings us almost full circle to what I mentioned earlier in the article–Tostee’s heavy breathing.
Approximate Time on Video: 14:46
Tostee breathes heavily. This is extreme emotion. His body, forcefully, pulling in and pushing out oxygen–oxygen needed to fuel fight or flight. His emotion sounds out of control. David Attenborough documentaries spring to mind–I think I’ve only heard this extreme level of breathing in animals after a fight.
Then it stops. We hear muffled noises, Wright’s final scream, then momentary silence. Tostee breaks the silence with, “f***!”, then his heavy breathing starts again.
“Did you hear her scream?”
Tostee is quick to respond.
“I didn’t hear it with my own ears, no. I only realised that there was a faint scream, um, that my phone audio picked up. Um–”
“But your phone recorded that scream–
“we can hear that scream–
“through the locked balcony door–
“but you reckon you didn’t hear it?”
“Not at the time no.”
“Are you, you serious?”
Bartlett finds this hard to believe and so do I. Tostee’s breathing stopped, then started again after the scream was heard and after he said, “f***!”.
“Yeah. No. All I saw, all I saw was her on the other side of the rail for a, a fleeting moment and then, and then she was gone.”
Tostee punctuates his “Yeah” with his eyebrows, a nonverbal signal to pay attention to it. Then his eyes avert downwards, this looks like an expression of shame. He feels guilt or remorse.
There are too many signs of deception littered throughout the interview, Tostee is far from being honest. The question is, how far? What is the partial guilt he alerted us to at the start of the interview?
The Gable Tostee Interview–Part One
The Gable Tostee Interview–Part Two
There is also a Part Two of the interview, but I’m not analysing it here–I’ll let you do that yourself. Let me know what you find!
If you have something you’d like me to look at, get in touch.
Want more? After finishing this post, I found the full audio recording from the night, on YouTube. I haven’t yet listened to it but thought I’d share.