Brighton footballers cleared of sex assault

Anton Rodgers, George Barker, Steve Cook and Lewis Dunk
Image caption Anton Rodgers, George Barker, Steve Cook and Lewis Dunk denied sexual assault

Four footballers have been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage woman in a Brighton hotel room.

Brighton and Hove Albion players Anton Rodgers, 20, George Barker, 21, Lewis Dunk, 21, and former team-mate Steve Cook, 22, denied assault at a retrial.

Mr Rodgers, Mr Barker and Mr Cook were also cleared of voyeurism. Mr Dunk was cleared at an earlier trial.

The Old Bailey was told photographs were taken of the unconscious 19-year-old woman at the hotel in July 2011.

Mr Cook, who was on Brighton and Hove Albion's books at the time of the alleged assault, signed for Bournemouth last year.

Explicit pictures

The players' families, including Mr Rodgers's father, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, watched the proceedings at court.

Brighton and Hove Albion said it was pleased to note the not guilty verdicts, which concluded a difficult period for all those concerned.

The prosecution said the players were celebrating victory in a local cup when they came across the drunken woman at a club.

She woke up at the Jury's Inn to find her strapless dress pulled down and said she saw explicit pictures on Mr Rodgers's mobile phone.

Image caption Anton Rodgers (left) was supported in court by his Liverpool manager father Brendan (right)

Richard Barton, prosecuting, said these were taken as a "permanent record of their conquest".

A photograph found on Mr Barker's phone showed the sleeping woman with shaving foam spelling out GB on her thigh.

Mr Barker was next to her doing a thumbs-up sign and smiling.

Another player, Leon Redwood, said he went into the room at night and sprayed the foam.

Mr Barker and Mr Rodgers said the woman had joined in the "boy's banter", climbed into bed with them and started kissing them.

'Pack of lies'

Mr Dunk and Mr Cook said they were sleeping on the floor and did not get involved.

The woman was said to have "told a pack of lies" following the incident and agreed she lied to police and her employers but said she had been humiliated by the footballers.

Jurors at an earlier trial in February could not agree verdicts but found Mr Dunk not guilty of voyeurism.

Speaking outside the court after they were cleared, Mr Dunk said it was "the best feeling in the world".

His father Mark added: "I believed 100% that he was innocent and now it has been proved in court.

"I hope he will be able to build up his career again. This sort of thing would have an effect on anybody's career."

Mr Barker said: "Since the day of my arrest in January 2011, I have always vigorously protested my innocence.

"Having to live with these allegations over the last two years has been enormously difficult for me, for my family and for my friends.

"Being able to rely on them at all times has been hugely reassuring during what has seemed at times like a nightmare."

Mr Rodgers left the court with his father without commenting, but his solicitor Mark Haslam said they were delighted with the verdict, and it was "a great relief that this long ordeal is finally over".

Mr Cook made no comment.

The defendants were awarded their costs.

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