A man in Newcastle, Australia accused of beating a woman unconscious outside of a nightclub has been freed by a judge who said self-defence could not be ruled out.
Photos of Brittany Merrick's beaten face were widely shared on social media after the violent incident with Shaun Rudder outside Finnegans nightclub on Boxing Day last year.
Mr Rudder, 26, was accused of bashing Ms Merrick, leaving her bloodied and unconscious. He is now free after eight months in custody, reports 7 News.
Magistrate Andrew Eckhold said evidence presented to the court could not disprove Mr Rudder's claim of self-defence.
The Magistrate said video from inside the nightclub showed Ms Merrick "taking Rudder down". There was also inconsistent testimony from Ms Merrick and fellow witness Brittany Norris.
CCTV video showed Ms Merrick grasping Mr Rudder by the throat and throwing him to the ground. Mr Rudder admitted to the court he had spat in Ms Merrick's face and called her a "psycho", which led to the pair getting kicked out of the venue.
"[The video] shows an extraordinary level of physical capacity by Ms Merrick, I've got to say ... which really does confuse things," said Mr Eckhold.
"Given that he had been taken to the ground inside Finnegans, and that she punched him effectively a number of times inside Finnegans ... then it is a matter where he would have ultimately been justified in landing a blow upon her - just a single blow as he says he did - in self-defence."
Mr Rudder's lawyer told the court Ms Merrick had "stormed" towards him outside of the nightclub with her fists up. He claims Mr Rudder then punched her once in self-defence, knocking her out and causing her injuries.
But Ms Merrick and her witnesses claim Mr Rudder had stalked her before attacking the 22-year-old.
Ms Merrick said he had chased her and another woman outside before punching her multiple times, causing her to drop face-first onto the ground.
Photos of the woman's injuries stirred up anger online when her friend posted them on social media with their version of the events.
Mr Rudder was emotional outside court on Monday, telling reporters he had lost eight months of his life he would never get back.