Northern Ireland

Showjumper Gabriel Tunney cleared of underage sex charge

A show-jumper has been cleared of having under-age sex with a 15-year-old former pony club student.

Gabriel Tunney, 42, of Tattinweer, Tempo, County Fermanagh, was acquitted by a jury at Omagh Crown Court sitting in Belfast.

The professional showjumper was found not guilty of knowingly having sex with someone under the age of 16 on dates between April and November 2010.

This was the third time he has stood trial on charges he has always denied.

Mr Tunney maintained that nothing ever happened between him and the former schoolgirl, who is now aged 19.

The jury of eight men and three women accepted his pleas of innocence and the claims of his defence lawyer that his accuser was a "brazen liar... a damaged child... a flawed individual".

They rejected the prosecution's case that it was Mr Tunney who had "lied and lied".

They also rejected DNA evidence which, the defence said, was flawed.

Mr Tunney's defence lawyer said the teenager wanted to destroy those she felt had crossed her and was capable of destructive manipulations in an effort "to bring down her prey".

He accused her of being "cold-blooded" and capable of manipulating phones to fabricate messages and plant texts.