Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell was today found not guilty by a jury of child sex offences following a trial at Manchester Crown Court. The jury in the sex abuse trial of Coronation Street star Michael Le Vell has resumed its deliberations.
The actor, 48, said afterwards he was he was "delighted" and it was a "weight off his shoulders" after he was cleared of child sex offences following a trial at Manchester Crown Court.
The actor, who enjoyed a "luxury, charmed life", had maintained his innocence throughout and was acquitted of 12 serious child sex offences.
He heard the foreman of the jury deliver the not guilty verdicts to a hushed and packed courtroom at the end of an eight-day trial at Manchester Crown Court.
His victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was not in court to hear the verdicts but the "bubbly, lovely, naive" youngster had earlier sobbed as she claimed Le Vell, known to millions of TV fans as the soap's Kevin Webster, raped her as she clutched a teddy bear.
Her claims were dismissed by the jury after being described in court as "inconsistent, incoherent and unbelievable".
Alisdair Williamson, defending said the case was "a prosecution by cliche" - decrying how much had been made of Le Vell's "demons" - his drinking and one-night stands.
He said the defendant in the witness box was clearly a "scared and frightened" innocent man accused of "the most unbelievable and terrible thing".
The actor, from Hale, Cheshire, who has been in the ITV soap for 30 years, faced 12 charges in all - five counts of rape, three of indecent assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child and two of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
Le Vell, on trial under his real name of Michael Turner, had maintained his innocence throughout, telling police the girl's claims were "an absolute pack of lies" and the jury that he was "fighting for his life".
Le Vell mouthed "thank you" to the jury and raised his hand to them after he was cleared of each of the 12 counts.
He held his head up as the male foreman began giving the verdicts.
On the fourth count of not guilty he nodded his head in agreement with them.
His brother and sisters, who sat in the public gallery, were in tears as the verdicts were delivered.
One man shouted "Get in" when the last verdict was read out.
Le Vell looked round in confusion before he left the dock and was hugged by a supporter.
Cries of relief were then heard as he left the courtroom a free man, with his family members.
The jury deliberated for just short of five hours.
The court heard of his "dark secret" that he had enjoyed a string of one-night stands behind the back of his wife of 25 years, Janette Beverley. And he had abandoned the family home to get drunk in the pub each night.
But while Le Vell might be described as a "weak, stupid and drunk man" and a "bad husband", he was not a child rapist, Mr Williamson told the jury.
It was a "strange case of child rape" without any DNA evidence or injuries to the alleged victim, who claimed she had been raped and abused while a young girl, Mr Williamson added.
Le Vell was initially arrested on September 30, 2011, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with the case.
But after a review of the evidence following fresh allegations by the girl, Le Vell was re-arrested and charged in February 2013.
He first joined Coronation Street in 1983 and quickly endeared himself to fans, who have followed the trials and tribulations of Kevin, from Brian Tilsley's apprentice mechanic through to his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor.
He did not appear in any episodes of the soap during the legal proceedings.
Pat Hurst and Kim Pilling
Live blog from the court