Wales international footballer Ched Evans was found not guilty of rape by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday following a retrial.
Evans, who plays for third-tier Chesterfield, was accused of raping a woman in a hotel room near Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011.
The 27-year-old was previously found guilty of rape, but the jury was told that the Court of Appeal had quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.
The verdict, which the jury reached in just three hours after being asked to consider the evidence by trial judge Mrs Justice Nicola Davies earlier on Friday, ended Evans’s five-year fight to clear his name.
“Mr Evans you are discharged and you can leave the dock,” Davies told Evans as she brought the eight-day trial to a close.
Evans was seen crying and hugging partner Natasha Massey, who has been staunch in her support of his case, after the jury foreman read out the verdict.
From the start, Evans insisted he was innocent of rape, saying he had been invited to “join in” by a fellow footballer in the early hours.
He admitted to having sex with the teenager, and cheating on Massey, also his girlfriend at the time, but always insisted the sex had been consensual.
Defence lawyer Judy Khan QC said Evans answered every single question he was asked by police and that officers would never have known about the sex session had it not been for the footballer’s honesty.
In his defence, Evans said he walked into a hotel room where fellow footballer Clayton McDonald was having sex with the woman, adding McDonald then asked her if he could join in, to which she replied: “Yes.”
Evans was adamant he had consensual sex with the woman before leaving via a fire exit door when he realised he was cheating on his girlfriend.
Prosecutors, however, alleged that the complainant was too drunk to consent.
In her summing up of the evidence, Davies told the jury of seven men and five women that the issue of consent was key to the case, adding that drunken consent was still consent.
“Your decision must be made calmly, objectively and without emotion,” she said. “You are not here to judge the morals of any person in this case and this includes the complainant and the defendant.
Evans and Massey are still in a relationship. They plan to marry and have a nine-month-old son.Punch