SWINDON Town footballer Nile Ranger has been cleared of raping a woman in a hotel.
The 22-year-old former Newcastle United striker denied the accusation and said they had consensual sex after going out drinking together.
He told Newcastle Crown Court he had never engaged in sexual activity with a woman against her will and the jury returned the not guilty verdict after the week-long trial.
Ranger and the woman had met in a city centre bar and gone on to different clubs before eventually booking into the Carlton Hotel, in Jesmond, Newcastle.
Giving evidence, the woman said that she had no memory of the night after the first bar they were in until she woke up naked next to Ranger in bed.
Ranger told her she should take the morning after pill. She left and they continued to swap messages that day, the court heard.
She then visited her GP, was checked at hospital and made a rape allegation to police.
But after being arrested Ranger, now playing for Swindon Town, told the police they had had sex more than once and that she had engaged whole heartedly and enthusiastically.
The court heard that the pair had been messaging for a year before the incident, with Ranger often trying to meet up with her.
This had led her to refer to him as a “predator” and “Nile Ripper” in some texts they exchanged.
After the foreman delivered the not guilty verdict Ranger banged on the sides of the dock and said “Thank God for that.”
As he walked out he thanked the jury and pulling off his tie said: “What a joke.”
Dismissing the jury, Judge Evans thanked them for their consideration.
Ranger made no comment leaving the court but his solicitor, Geoffrey Forrester, said he was delighted with the result.
“It took the jury approximately one hour, after hearing evidence extending over seven days, to find him not guilty,” he said.
“He’s obviously delighted with the result and wants to get back to doing what he does, playing football, and he just wants to get on with his life.”
During the trial the jury heard about trouble that Ranger had previously been in.
This included serving an 11-week sentence in a young offenders’ institution when he was just 15 after he took part in a street robbery. Growing up in North London, he mixed with an older gang, and also had convictions for burglary and handling stolen goods in 2007.