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  1. ITV Report

Ched Evans found not guilty in rape retrial

  • Video report by ITV News Wales Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

Wales international footballer Ched Evans has said he is "overwhelmed with relief" after being acquitted of rape following a retrial.

The Chesterfield striker 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 but there was a public outcry when he attempted to return to professional football.

Following the not guilty verdict, which took the jury three hours to reach, Evans was seen "crying his eyes out" in court, after a five-year battle to clear his name.

Evans' fiancée Natasha Massey was also in tears.

In a statement read outside court on his behalf by his solicitor Shaun Draycott, Evans said:

In the early hours of 30th May 2011 an incident occurred in north Wales that was to change my life and the lives of others forever.

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, Judy Khan QC and David Emanuel of Garden Court Chambers, London and Shaun Draycott of Draycott Browne Solicitors, Manchester, for their tireless efforts upon my behalf.

Thanks go, too, to my family and friends; most notably my fiancée Natasha, who chose, perhaps incredibly, to support me in my darkest hour.

Whilst my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question.

– Ched Evans

The 27-year-old had admitted to having sex with the teenager at the hotel and cheating on his girlfriend in the process, but always insisted it had been consensual.

He had always maintained his innocence, saying the woman had invited him to "join in" a 4am romp with a fellow footballer.

Defence counsel Judy Khan QC said Evans answered every single question during his police interviews and detectives would never have known about the sex session had it not been for the soccer star's honesty.

Responding to the not guilty verdict, Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turne, said: "We are naturally delighted with the outcome, especially for Ched, his family and friends.

"We can now all move forward and focus on football."

Ched Evans playing for Sheffield in 2012. Credit: PA

Giving his evidence-in-chief at the retrial at Cardiff Crown Court, the 13-cap Wales international told the jury he had consensual sex with the woman.

He arrived at the £92 hotel room after friend Clayton McDonald, also a footballer, sent him a message to say he had "got a bird".

"I was being juvenile, I was being childish," Mr Evans said. "I didn't know for sure what would be happening in the room.

"I thought they might be having sex. They were in fact having sex. When I walked in, the door slammed behind me and they both looked at me.

"Clay looked at her and said 'can my mate join in?' She looked at me and said 'yes'."

Ched Evans playing for Chesterfield during a pre-season friendly match in August. Credit: PA

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 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.