Evans "overwhelmed with relief"
Retrial after conviction was quashed in April
Wales international footballer Ched Evans has been found not guilty of raping a teenager in a hotel after a two-week retrial at Cardiff Crown Court.
The 27-year-old, who plays in England’s third-tier for Chesterfield, was originally found guilty of rape in 2012 but his conviction was quashed in April this year.
He was found not guilty of the same offense on Friday.
Evans said he was “overwhelmed with relief” in a statement read out by a representative on the steps of the court in front of reporters.
He added that he wanted to “wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who might have been affected” by the ordeal and praised his fiancee Natasha Massey for standing by him.
Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner welcomed the verdict.
“We are naturally delighted with the outcome, especially for Ched, his family and friends. We can now all move forward and focus on football,” Turner said in a statement.
The former Sheffield United, Manchester City and Norwich player was released from jail in October 2014 after serving half of his five-year term.
Third-tier Oldham Athletic and his former club Sheffield United were dissuaded from signing Evans due to pressure from sponsors as well as criticism from leading politicians and also the British public, with thousands signing petitions against his proposed moves.
He joined Chesterfield in June 2016, and has scored four goals in eight appearances. He has played 13 times for his country.
In a statement on the Women’s Aid website, chief executive Polly Neate said she hoped the case and the high level of publicity surrounding it “does not prevent rape survivors from reporting their abuse.”
“Whatever the outcome of any case, no woman should be criticized or blamed for saying she has been raped,” Neate added. “With other crimes, we do not blame anyone when the accused is found not guilty. With rape, this is even more important.”
Women Against Rape also criticized the decision, claiming the trial was a “throwback to the last century.”
“The court of appeal should not have quashed Ched Evans’s conviction and allowed this re-trial,” it added in a statement.