Le Vell 'delighted' at acquittals
Coronation Street's Michael Le Vell said he was "delighted" and it was a "big weight off everyone's shoulders" after he was cleared of child sex abuse charges.
The actor, 48, who enjoyed a "luxury, charmed life", had maintained his innocence throughout and was acquitted of 12 child sex offences.
He heard the foreman of the jury deliver the not guilty verdicts to a hushed and packed courtroom at the end of an eight-day trial at Manchester Crown Court.
His accuser, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was not in court to hear the verdicts but the "bubbly, lovely, naive" youngster had earlier sobbed as she claimed Le Vell, known to millions of TV fans as the soap's Kevin Webster, raped her as she clutched a teddy bear.
Her claims were dismissed by the jury after being described in court as "inconsistent, incoherent and unbelievable". After walking free from court, Le Vell said he was "delighted" and thanked ITV for their "continued support throughout this traumatic time for all of us".
"It's a big weight off everyone's shoulders," he said. "I might go and have a drink now."
Commenting after the verdicts, a spokeswoman for Coronation Street said: "We are looking forward to meeting with Michael to discuss his return to the programme."
Asked when he would return to Coronation Street, Le Vell replied: "I don't know, I might have a holiday first. I'll have to go and have a chat with my boss."
Alisdair Williamson, defending, said the case was "a prosecution by cliche", decrying how much had been made of Le Vell's "demons" - his drinking and one-night stands. He said the defendant in the witness box was clearly a "scared and frightened" innocent man accused of "the most unbelievable and terrible thing".
The actor, from Hale, Cheshire, who has been in the ITV soap for 30 years, faced 12 charges in all - five counts of rape, three of indecent assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child, and two of causing a child to engage in sexual activity. Le Vell, on trial under his real name of Michael Turner, maintained his innocence throughout, telling police the girl's claims were "an absolute pack of lies" and the jury that he was "fighting for his life".