Le Vell cleared of child sex abuse
Joyful Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell said he was looking forward to a drink after he was cleared of child abuse charges.
The 48-year-old mouthed the words "thank you" to the jury of eight women and four men who dismissed a string of allegations made by his accuser, who claimed she had been raped and abused while a young girl.
Le Vell kept his emotions in check as his family members in the public gallery wept, as one by one, not guilty verdicts on the 12 counts were delivered but the strain of the seven-day trial was apparent as he appeared drained when he left the dock.
Jurors took just under five hours to reach their verdicts at Manchester Crown Court after they were told by the judge that their assessment of Le Vell's accuser was "critical".
They faced a stark decision on the truth in that either the girl had entered the witness box to recall traumatic events she had suffered or she was a dishonest person who had come to court to "quite literally destroy" the life of the defendant, said Judge Michael Henshell.
The "demons" in Le Vell's private life were laid bare in the trial - his alcoholism and womanising while his wife battled breast cancer.
The court heard of his "dark secrets" that he had a string of one-night stands and an affair behind the back of his wife of 25 years, actress Janette Beverley. And he had abandoned the family home to drink up to nine pints in the pub most nights.
But while Le Vell might be described as a "weak, stupid and drunk man" and a "bad husband", he was not a child rapist, his barrister Alisdair Williamson told the jury. Alcohol was on Le Vell's mind as he walked out of court to a media scrum and thanked his family, his legal team and his employers, ITV, before he said with a smile: "And I might go have a drink now."
Crown prosecutor Eleanor Laws QC had argued Le Vell was a "troubled man" who had sexually assaulted his victim but that account was rejected by the jury. His accuser, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was not in court to hear the verdicts. She had been described as "bubbly", "lovely" and "naive" by the Crown after she had sobbed when she gave evidence that Le Vell, known to millions of TV fans as the soap's Kevin Webster, raped her as she clutched a teddy bear.
But the jury heard from Mr Williamson that it was a "strange case of child rape" without any DNA evidence or injuries to the alleged victim - although medical experts agreed it could not be ruled out for certain. Le Vell, on trial under his real name of Michael Turner, had denied 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.