The Welsh striker denied raping a 19-year-old waitress at a hotel five years ago
Footballer Ched Evans has been found not guilty of raping a young woman, following a retrial.
The jury took around three hours to reach their verdict in the retrial, which came after an original guilty verdict four years ago was quashed by the Court of Appeal.
The 27-year-old Chesterfield striker had always denied raping the 19-year-old waitress at a Premier Inn hotel near Rhyl in North Wales five years ago.
Shaun Draycott, Mr Evans' solicitor, said on his behalf that he was "overwhelmed with relief". Mr Draycott added Mr Evans' thanks to his friends and family, especially his fiancee Natasha Massey, "who chose, perhaps incredibly, to support me in my darkest hour.
"Whilst my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone who might have been affected by the night in question."
Sky News sports correspondent Paul Kelso was in court when Mr. Evans heard the verdict and described his reaction as "emotional".
He added: "As he was released from the dock he was already in tears and he embraced his girlfriend. The two of them embraced and sobbed."
Mr Evans said he walked into a room at the hotel to find fellow footballer Clayton McDonald having sex with the woman.
The Welsh footballer had told Cardiff Crown Court that Mr McDonald asked the woman whether he could join in, to which she looked up at him and replied: "Yes". Mr Evans said he had consensual sex with the complainant before getting up and leaving, after realising he was cheating on his girlfriend.
Prosecutors had tried to prove the complainant was too drunk to consent to sex and awoke hours later confused and alone in the room. But Evans had told Cardiff Crown Court the woman was no drunker than him or Mr McDonald.
Giving evidence, Mr Evans had told the jury: "I wouldn't have sex with anyone that wasn't consenting."
The St Asaph-born player claimed he had turned up at the hotel primarily to inform Mr McDonald that one of their group had been arrested. However, he conceded he had been "childish" to walk into the hotel room when suspecting that Mr McDonald may be having sex.
The complainant had not given evidence in either trial, with the prosecution saying she thought her drink had been spiked and she could not remember what had happened.
She has had to move several times and change her name after being identified repeatedly on social media, despite the court granting her lifelong anonymity.