Welsh footballer Ched Evans found not guilty of rape after retrial

Football player Ched Evans, right, and his partner Natasha Massey arrive at Cardiff Crown Court, in Cardiff, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Photo / AP.
Football player Ched Evans, right, and his partner Natasha Massey arrive at Cardiff Crown Court, in Cardiff, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Photo / AP.

Footballer Ched Evans was cleared of rape after judges made a highly unusual decision to let the jury hear from two of his accuser's former lovers.

The men had sex with the 19-year-old woman in the months before she alleged she had been raped by the footballer in May 2011.

They both gave accounts of the woman's sexual preferences that were similar to the description put forward by Evans at his original trial.

The first man told the court she had sex with him after drinking heavily but could not remember the day after, while the second called her a 'confident sexual partner'.

The Chesterfield striker was found not guilty over the 2011 incident after five years of protesting his innocence.

The 27-year-old was originally convicted of the rape and has served half of a five-year prison sentence he was given in 2012.

But a retrial was ordered in the case and his legal team were allowed to take the extraordinary step of questioning the complainant's other sexual partners in court.

The player and his fiancee, Natasha Massey, wept and hugged as the verdict was announced today.

Ched Evans signed a £2,000-a-week deal with League One Chesterfield after his conviction was quashed in April.

The one-year deal is the first time Evans played football professionally since his release in October 2014.

Several clubs considered signing the 27-year-old striker, but faced an intense public backlash.

Evans is the club's joint top scorer so far this year with four goals, although he misses tomorrow's trip to Southend with a foot injury.

Several bigger clubs had expressed an interest in signing the former Manchester City player, but were afraid of the public relations backlash.

In theory, he could make a move in the January transfer window or wait until the summer, when he is a free agent, to earn a new lucrative contract.

Outside court, he said: 'I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question.'

Evans stood hand in hand with his fiancee Ms Massey as his solicitor Shaun Draycott read of out his statement on the court steps.

He 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.

'Thanks go to my friends and family, most notably my fiancee 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.'

It emerged during the case that Ms Massey had contacted a witness and reminded him of a £50,000 reward for information which prosecutors claimed was 'akin to bribery'.

The verdict could give a boost to the former Manchester City star's career, with the now overturned conviction previously discouraging teams from taking him on.

The Crown Prosecution Service thanked Evans's accuser for her 'courage' in giving evidence against Evans and said they respect the jury's decision.

Since the original trial the woman has been given a new identity and has moved away from the North Wales area because of the abuse she has suffered.

Ed Beltrami, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wales said: 'We respect the decision of the jury today.

'This case hinged on the issue of sexual consent - that someone consents if they agree by choice and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Being drunk does not mean a person relinquishes their right to consent, that they are to blame for being attacked or that they were 'fair game'.

The verdict was welcomed by the chief executive Chris Turner of Evans's current side, Chesterfield, who said everyone from the side was looking forward to seeing the Welshman back on the field.

He 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.'

Evans was arrested after having 'threesome' sex with his accuser and fellow player Clayton McDonald.

The woman told police she was too drunk to know what was happening or who she was with.

Evans admitted having sex with the woman but said she consented and invited him to join her and McDonald, who was acquitted at Evans's first trial.

Evans is currently on a one-year contract with League One side Chesterfield, but could now see his earnings increased with the possibility that more teams will be interested in signing him now his record is clear.

The retrial has heard Evans had been on a night out in Rhyl, his hometown with friends including Mr McDonald.

Before hitting the town, Evans paid £92 for a room at the Premier Inn for Mr McDonald, whom he had first met when the pair played for Manchester City's youth team.

The complainant was also out that night, consuming a large glass of wine, four double vodka and lemonades and a shot of sambuca.

She was seen on CCTV staggering outside a nightclub named Zu Bar, as well as falling over in The Godfather kebab shop.

After leaving the kebab shop, the woman got into a taxi with Mr McDonald and went back to the Premier Inn.

During the journey Mr McDonald texted Evans: 'I've got a bird.'

Evans later arrived at the hotel in a taxi, along with his younger brother and a friend, and obtained a key for the room after telling the night receptionist that his friend no longer needed it.

The St Asaph-born player claimed he had turned up at the hotel primarily to inform Mr McDonald that one of their group had been arrested.

However, he said he had been 'childish' to walk into the hotel room when suspecting that Mr McDonald may be having sex.

Evans's younger brother, Ryan Roberts, and a friend watched through the window of the room, using a mobile phone light to see inside and film.

Mr McDonald later left the hotel via the main entrance, with Evans following minutes later through the fire exit door.

Both men then walked to Evans's family home and stayed there. They were arrested the following day.

Giving evidence, Evans told the jury: 'I wouldn't have sex with anyone that wasn't consenting.'

At the time of the alleged rape, Evans was in a relationship with Natasha Massey. They are still together, plan to marry and have a nine-month-old son.

'I'm literally begging... If you know anything please help me,' Natasha Massey wrote in a Facebook message to a witness following her boyfriend's 2012 conviction for rape.

The message, highlighting a £50,000 reward, was sent to Gavin Burrough, a night receptionist at the Premier Inn near Rhyl where Ched Evans was accused of raping a young woman.

Miss Massey had been in a relationship with striker Evans for two-and-a-half years when he was arrested for sexually assaulting the complainant in the early hours of May 30, 2011.

She stood by him throughout the first trial, at Caernarfon Crown Court, where he was convicted of rape on April 20, 2012 and jailed for five years.

It can now be reported that, following the jury's verdict in the first trial, Miss Massey contacted the witness in an act described as 'akin to bribery' by the prosecution.

She sent two messages to Mr Burrough, the first at 12.12pm on May 6 2013.

Prosecuting, Simon Medland QC told Cardiff Crown Court: 'The first of these messages draws to Mr Burrough's attention her claim that this defendant was then wrongly locked up in prison for a crime that never happened.'

'We are appealing for new information and there's a £50,000 reward for any new evidence.

'Do you know anything that could help Ched? X'

Mr Burrough did not respond to the message, with Miss Massey sending another at 9am the following day.

Mr Medland said the contentious message read: ''Ok, I see you have chosen to ignore me.

'I understand you want to put it all behind you but if you can deal with the fact that you know Ched is innocent and he is spending the next 17 months in prison and you can just sit back and let that happen then so be it.

'I'm literally begging. If you know anything please help me. X''

In a statement to the court, Mr Burrough said he believed the messages to mean: 'I receive £50,000 to provide information that Ched Evans is innocent'.

However, he said he could not provide any further information as what he had said to the jury during the first trial was the truth.

Mr Medland told the court: 'It's akin to a bribe. There is no direct evidence of bribery.

'This is an attempt to induce Mr Burrough to change his evidence so it supported the case of the defendant.'

Representing Evans, Judy Khan QC argued that the messages should not be put before the jury in the retrial.

'The messages were not drafted by Ched Evans. He was incarcerated when they were drafted and sent,' she said.

'He was not aware they had been sent. The wording of the messages cannot be attributed to Mr Evans. There's no evidence that they were sent at his behest.

'If one reads the messages themselves there's nothing in them that goes beyond the actions of the desperate girlfriend, desperate to seek the clearing of her boyfriend's name.'

During his prison sentence, Natasha Massey visited Evans in prison each week and gave interviews protesting his innocence.

In October 2012, she told ITV's This Morning: 'As soon as I found out that he'd been questioned over rape, my instinct was kind of protective of Ched, and I thought I have to stand by him.

'So my thoughts and feelings over the cheating had to be put to one side and I just stepped in to help Ched through this terrible time.

'I'd been with him for two-and-a-half years, I know Ched and I knew he wouldn't be capable of committing a crime like that.'

Miss Massey was photographed hand-in-hand with Evans following his release from prison in October 2014 and was by his side as he appealed his conviction.

Natasha's business tycoon father Karl, 52, helped launch the website Chedevans.com following his conviction and funded Evans' legal challenge.

The website, which proclaimed that Evans was 'wrongly convicted of rape on 20th April 2012' boasted of the £50,000 available for new information that could help his appeal.

The couple became engaged after Evans was released from prison.

In a highly unusual move, the judge in the Ched Evans retrial allowed the jury to hear from his accuser's former lovers.

Two men who had sex with the 19-year-old woman in the months before she alleged she had been raped by the footballer in May 2011 gave evidence.

They both gave accounts of the woman's sexual preferences that were similar to the description put forward by Evans at his original trial.

The men were found by private investigators employed by the Evans family after he lost his first appeal four years ago.

In March this year the striker's lawyers told a new hearing before the Court of Appeal that this new evidence had not been available at his trial and that undermined the safety of his conviction.

Appeal judges Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Flaux and Sir David Maddison allowed the appeal but ordered a retrial.

Normally in trials involving sexual offences, a complainant's sexual history is not put before a jury.

But Evans' barrister relied upon the 'striking detail' of the statements given by the two men when compared with his client's account.

The court heard that on the day Evans was convicted of rape, a man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, contacted police as he believed the conviction was wrong.

The man said he met the woman at Zu bar in Rhyl and after drinking heavily she offered him a 'good time' but she had no recollection the next morning of what happened.

A second man provided a statement stating he had been in a casual relationship with the complainant for a few months in early 2011 - and had sex with her two nights before Evans' alleged rape.

Last year he made a further statement describing the woman as a 'confident sexual partner'.

The two new witnesses who gave evidence at Evans' retrial denied they were influenced by the £50,000 reward.


- Daily Mail

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