LONDON Former Wales international striker Ched Evans was found not guilty of rape after a two week long re-trial ended in Cardiff on Friday.
Evans, who was released in 2014 after serving half of a five-year sentence for the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in 2011, had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal last April.
The jury of seven women and five men took two hours to acquit Evans, a former Manchester City player, at Cardiff crown court on Friday.
The 27-year-old, who was playing for Sheffield United at the time and is now at League One (third-tier) English club Chesterfield, said in a statement that he was "overwhelmed with relief" at the verdict.
"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 events of the night in question," he added.
Evans had admitted cheating on his girlfriend and said the teenager let him 'join in' while she had consensual sex with fellow footballer Clayton McDonald, who was cleared of rape at the original trial.
The prosecution had argued that the woman was drunk and did "not have the freedom or capacity to consent".
The re-trial heard fresh evidence of the complainant's sexual history, a move that was condemned by some women's support groups.
"This trial has been a throwback to bad times when women were the ones on trial and had no say in a sexual encounter," Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape told the Guardian newspaper.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)