A FORMER Wycombe Wanderers player has been found not guilty of the rape of a child under 13.
Nathan Ashton, 23, of Hatters Lane, High Wycombe was charged after two girls, who were aged 12 at the time, went back to his flat and drank alcohol earlier this year.
One of the girls said that she had unprotected consensual sex with Mr Ashton in his bedroom, and although he admitted he spoke to both girls in his bedroom he insisted he did not have sex or touch either of them.
Mr Ashton, who made 11 appearances for the Blues in the 2008-09 season, broke down in the dock as he was acquitted at Aylesbury Crown Court today.
Defence lawyer Maria Karaiskos had earlier told the jury it is quite easy to make up an allegation of rape as there are usually only two eye witnesses.
She said: “You have to be sure that the witnesses tell you the truth.”
She added: “This case is about one thing and one thing only and that is teenage boasting and it is very dangerous. Please don't rely on it, please find Nathan Ashton not guilty.”
Mr Ashton invited the girls to the flat around midday in April when he approached them in High Wycombe as he was going home from staying at the home of a girl he was seeing, who is now his girlfriend, and started talking to them. He said they told him they were 16.
They went to his flat after they had been to a fast food restaurant near his home. He gave them shots of alcohol and taught them a drinking game, the court was told.
Mr Ashton said he spoke to each of them separately in his bedroom - “just general conversation” and they then left. He said he did not commit the crime.
He was arrested after staff at their school became concerned on the day of the HPV vaccine. One of the girls' friends asked if you could have the vaccine if someone thought they were pregnant, which is when the girls were brought forward by their friend and further questioned, and police became involved.
They told a different account to the school staff initially saying they both had sex- one with a 17-year-old and one with a 15-year-old at Mr Ashton's flat while he went out with his girlfriend.
Mr Ashton was further arrested on June 16.
Mr Ashton told the court he was playing Sunday league football at the moment for the “love of the game” and in the last three months had set up a social networking dating site for disabled people.
At the end of his first season with Wycombe Wanderers he was awarded with community player of the year for work he did with young children.
He said he spoke to the girls to be “friendly” and invited them back and he did not think about sex at all, while they were in his flat.
Mr Ashton made no comment at his first police interview but he said this was because his solicitor advised him not to.
Good character references were given from five people including Iain Dowie who coached Mr Ashton at Charlton Athletics for three months when he made his debut who said as a boy he was “polite, conscientious and hard-working.” His mum Angela Ashton said she was very proud of her son.
Ben Gumpert, prosecuting, said Mr Ashton admitted in a police interview from June that he found one of the girls attractive and he suggested Mr Ashton invited the girls back to the flat because he thought he “was in with a chance.”.
The girls gave evidence via a video link and video interviews were shown in court. The complainant said she went into his bedroom after the drinking game and they had sex. She said she felt she could say no but “If I hadn't have had alcohol I don't think I would have done anything with him.”
The girl who was in the flat with her at the same time said they were no longer friends. She said her friend is someone who likes to boast and who likes to show off.
In his closing statement Mr Gumpert said although the girls' two accounts have been “various” he said the jury must bear in mind these are 12-year-old girls.
He said: “They are both, from what we have seen of them, physically well developed for their years. In outward appearance they are nearly women but they are 12- 13 now- but 12 at the time. They are little girls inside.”
Ms Karaiskos said there were substantial differences in the girls' evidence which cannot be ignored.
The jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty after retiring for one hour.