Man cleared of New Year’s Eve rape

A MAN accused of raping a woman as she slept after a New Year’s Eve party has been cleared by a jury today (Friday, June 6).

Mark Rickwood, 26, of Leighton Avenue, Worthing, had denied two counts of rape, dating back to January 1, 2013, throughout his trial at Chichester Crown Court this week.

After an hour and 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury of six men and six women returned unanimous not guilty verdicts for both charges,

The public gallery, packed with supporters of Mr Rickwood, erupted in cheers and claps after the foreman returned the jury’s verdicts.

Closing the case earlier in the afternoon, Beverley Cherrill, defending, said: “Remember his demeanour when he was accused. He was pacing up and down, confused and unable to believe it.

“He believes now this very serious allegation has been made and asks you to consider the evidence very, very carefully and to consider the ultimate question.

“Are you sure that she is right and he is wrong?”

The allegation came after Rickwood had been on a night out in Brighton, before returning to an address in Worthing.

Partygoers, including Rickwood and the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been drinking and taking cocaine during the new year’s celebrations.

The woman, a 24-year-old from Shoreham, had retired to an upstairs bedroom at around 6am and was later joined by Rickwood.

She claimed to have been awoken to the defendant raping her but Rickwood had always maintained it was consensual.

For the full story, see the Worthing Herald, out Thursday, June 12.