Footballer Ched Evans found not guilty of rape in retrial

Court finds Welsh footballer Ched Evans not guilty of raping a 19-year-old girl in a hotel room in 2011

Ched Evans leaves Cardiff Crown Court with his fiancee Natasha Massey
Ched Evans leaves Cardiff Crown Court with his fiancee Natasha Massey

Footballer Ched Evans has been found not guilty at his retrial of raping a 19-year old woman in a hotel room after a drunken night out with former club-mates in 2011.

Evans, 27, has spent two and a half years in prison for rape but his original conviction was quashed by the appeal court in Cardiff following a well-funded campaign by family and friends that included a £50,000 reward for information that could lead to his acquittal.

The former Sheffield United striker rushed into the arms of his girlfriend Natasha Massey as the verdict was read out, and both sobbed as the judge thanked the jury and the bannisters.

In a statement read outside the court by his solicitor Shaun Draycott, Evans said he was “overwhelmed with relief”.

“In the early hours of 30 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,” he said. “Whilst my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question.” 

Ched Evans’ case had attracted local controversy in January last year, after Hibernians FC offered the Welsh striker a six-month contract. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat warned the management of Hibernians FC that footballers are role models and that signing Evans could damage the reputation of their club, as well as the reputation of Malta.

“I hope the management understand this clearly before taking a final decision,” he said in a tweet.

However, justice minister Owen Bonnici and shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi both argued that Evans had served his sentence and that he deserved a second chance. Hibs ended up dropping their offer after the UK Ministry of Justice ruled that Evans, as a convicted sex offender, was barred from working outside the UK. He returned to football last June, joining League One side Chesterfield on a one-year deal.