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4 March 2014, 18:17
Ex Newcastle United footballer Nile Ranger has been cleared of raping a girl in a hotel in Jesmond.
The 22-year-old, who now plays for League One side Swindon Town, denied the accusation and said they had consensual sex after going out drinking together.
He told Newcastle Crown Court he had never engaged in sexual activity with a woman against her will and the jury returned the not guilty verdict after the week-long trial.
Ranger and the woman had met in a city centre bar and gone on to different clubs before eventually booking into the Carlton Hotel, in Jesmond, Newcastle.
Giving evidence, the woman said that she had no memory of the night after the first bar they were in until she woke up naked next to Ranger in bed.
Ranger told her she should take the morning after pill.
She left and they continued to swap messages that day, the court heard.
She then visited her GP, was checked at hospital and made a rape allegation to police.
But after being arrested Ranger told the police they had had sex more than once and that she had engaged "whole heartedly'' and "enthusiastically''.
The court heard that the pair had been messaging for a year before the incident, with Ranger often trying to meet up with her.
This had led the student to refer to him as a "predator'' and "Nile Ripper'' in some texts they exchanged.
After the foreman delivered the not guilty verdict Ranger banged on the sides of the dock and said "Thank God for that''.
As he walked out he thanked the jury and pulling off his tie said: "What a joke.''
Dismissing the jury, Judge Evans thanked them for their consideration.
Ranger made no comment leaving the court but his solicitor, Geoffrey Forrester, said he was delighted with the result.
"It took the jury approximately one hour, after hearing evidence extending over seven days, to find him not guilty.
He's obviously delighted with the result and wants to get back to doing what he does, playing football, and he just wants to get on with his life.''
Writing on Twitter, Ranger said:
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved. My legal team, my family and everyone else supporting me.
I am glad the right verdict came about in court. I am innocent, have always been innocent and have proven to be innocent.
These legal proceedings have played an integral part of my life and also my career. I am now solely focused on working hard and getting myself where I should.
I would like to thank Swindon Town FC for giving me a chance at a vital time to progress. I cannot thank them enough for their support.''