A 52-year-old taxi driver broke down and wept as he was cleared yesterday of sexually abusing a teenage fare who claimed he had then abandoned her by the roadside, leaving her to make her own way home.
It had taken the Belfast Crown Court jury of seven men and five women just under four-and-a-half-hours, over two days, to clear taxi driver Robert Francis Wellington by majority of the single count of sexually assaulting the 18-year-old after picking her up outside Club 14 in Tomb Street in the early hours of November 1, 2018.
A member of Mr Wellington's family sitting in the public gallery had to be comforted by other family and friends as she too broke down, gasping audibly as the jury foreman announced their majority verdict of at least 10 to two.
By the verdict they accepted his claims he'd "done absolutely nothing wrong", and had ordered her out of his fonacab after she tried it on with him.
Mr Wellington, from West Circular Road in Belfast, had always denied the charge against him.
He maintained that he believed the teenager's erratic behaviour was due either to drink, drugs or both, and that she even confessed to being "off her face".
His trial last week viewed a videotaped police interview of the young woman in which she described how Mr Wellington claimed he'd been sent by her friend to collect her, as he couldn't make it.
The girl said she had only asked the fonacab driver if his taxi was free.
However, the court heard that in his police interviews Mr Wellington maintained his innocence and that the teenager was "off her head... rambling and shouting", and when he was about to drop her off he was told to "keep driving".
He further claimed that after she came on to him, he stopped his cab and ordered her to get out.
Defence counsel Luke Curran had also claimed her evidence to the jury was lies, telling her that what she claimed "simply did not happen... he didn't put his hand on your leg.... 100% definitely... he has done absolutely nothing to touch your leg or anywhere else", and the only sexual contact between them was when she pulled his hand towards her.