I’m overwhelmed with relief, says footballer cleared of rape in retrial
Ched Evans yesterday said he was "overwhelmed with relief" after being acquitted of rape following a retrial.
The Chesterfield striker (27) was originally convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman in a Premier Inn near Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011.
He served half of a five-year prison sentence before being released, and there was a public outcry when he attempted to return to professional football.
Mr Evans joined League One club Chesterfield FC after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial earlier this year.
A jury of seven women and five men found Mr Evans not guilty following three hours of deliberations after the eight-day trial at Cardiff Crown Court.
The defendant wept and hugged his fiancee, Natasha Massey, who has stood by him throughout his ordeal, as he left the dock.
The couple stood together with supporters as Mr Evans's solicitor, Shaun Draycott, read a statement outside court.
"In the early hours of May 30, 2011, an incident occurred in north Wales that was to change my life and the lives of others forever," it said.
"That incident did not involve the commission of a criminal offence, and today I am overwhelmed with relief that the jury agreed. I would like to thank my legal team for their tireless efforts upon my behalf.
"Thanks go, too, to my friends and family; notably my fiancee, who chose, perhaps incredibly, to support me in my darkest hour."
During the trial, jurors heard new evidence from two men who had sex with the complainant around May 2011.
In March this year, the striker's lawyers told a new hearing before the Court of Appeal that the accounts had not been available at his original trial and that undermined the safety of his conviction.
Both of the men gave account of the woman's sexual preferences that were similar to the description Evans gave, supporting his assertion that she was consenting.
A complainant's sexual history is not usually put before a jury in trials involving such offences.
But Evans's legal team sought permission under Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act to question the complainant about the accounts.
Appeal judges Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Flaux and Sir David Maddison allowed the appeal, but ordered a retrial.
Chesterfield's chief executive Chris Turner said everyone from the side was looking forward to seeing Evans back in action.
"We are naturally delighted with the outcome," he added.