A cricketer has been found guilty of raping a sleeping woman during the first night of a sexual conquest competition he helped set up on a WhatsApp group.
Alex Hepburn, 23, was warned a jail sentence is inevitable for the attack on the the victim – committed just days after he set the rules of the contest to have sex with as many new partners as possible.
A jury found the former Worcestershire CCC all-rounder guilty of oral rape but cleared him of a further count of rape relating to the same victim.
A four-day trial at Worcester Crown Court heard the woman wrongly thought she was having sex with Hepburn’s then county team-mate Joe Clarke at the players’ flat in Portland Street, Worcester.
She told jurors she had earlier had consensual sex with England Lions batsman Mr Clarke following a night-out in April 2017.
Jurors were told Mr Clarke left his bedroom to be sick in a bathroom, where he passed out, leaving the woman asleep on a mattress in his room.
Hepburn told jurors he had drunk up to 20 bottles of beer before the woman rolled over in bed, kissed him, and instigated what he believed was consensual sex.
The complainant, who cannot be identified, said she had her eyes closed and engaged in 20 minutes of sexual activity with Australian-born Hepburn in a dimly-lit bedroom — before “clocking” who he was when he spoke.
After the unanimous guilty verdict was returned following around 11 hours of deliberations, Hepburn sighed and then slumped into his seat, covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
Jurors returned to court a few minutes later and cleared Hepburn of a second count of rape.
During his evidence on Wednesday this week, Hepburn admitted he sent “disgusting, horrible and embarrassing” WhatsApp messages while setting the rules of the sexual conquest competition.
Bailing Hepburn following the verdicts, Judge Jim Tindal told the cricketer, who was aged 21 at the time of the rape: “There is only one sentence that can properly be handed down in this case, and a custodial sentence is inevitable.
“You need to prepare yourself and get matters in order and attend Hereford Crown Court on the 30th of April.”
The judge also said that his provisional view was that verdicts indicated that Hepburn’s belief in the woman’s consent had been unreasonable.
In a statement, Worcestershire County Cricket Club’s chairman, Fanos Hira, said: “WCCC is appalled by the details that have been reported in this case.
“The WCCC board and CEO were first made aware of the arrest and subsequent charge of Mr Hepburn on 10th November 2017; WCCC then took immediate and decisive action.
“Our One Club values outline clear expectations of attitudes and behaviours for all staff at WCCC and everyone involved in Worcestershire cricket.
“WCCC continues to work alongside both the ECB and PCA focusing on education, welfare and development programmes for all staff within the game.”
Following the trial, Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wall, of West Mercia Police, said: “We welcome the conviction and I hope it will offer some comfort to the victim, who has shown great courage and strength in coming forward in reporting this to us, throughout the investigation and in giving evidence in court.
“At the time of the offence Hepburn was in a position of trust and power as a professional sportsman for local team Worcestershire County Cricket Club.
“I hope this conviction will provide reassurance to other victims of sexual offences, giving them the confidence that they will be believed and listened to by specially trained officers and that we will do everything to bring offenders to justice.”