London, Oct 18 : Ben Freeman, the former Emmerdale actor, has been cleared of raping a 16-year-old British girl he met on holiday in Barbados.
The jury took 90 minutes to reach a unanimous not guilty verdict and clear the star, who played mechanic Scott Windsor in the ITV1 soap, of allegations which have damaged his reputation over the last two years.
Freeman was accused of raping the girl on a poolside sunlounger while they were staying with their families at the same hotel in Barbados in November 2006.
The 28-year-old actor, who had denied the charge, admitted he and girl, from Cheshire, had sex, but she did not resist his advances.
Sales consultant James Broughton said he was on a friend's lounger by the hotel swimming pool when he overheard "pleasurable" sounds. He said he recognised the actor and went over to take photographs of the pair which he sold to a tabloid newspaper.
He told the court he was not aware of the rape charges until two days after he had sold the pictures and added that he had seen the two "cuddling" on the lounger after the alleged incident.
Anesta Weekes QC, defending Freeman, said the girl's own evidence showed the sex was consensual and the girl "made the dreadful choice to lie" when her parents "had beaten her up" for it.
Weekes said the alleged victim's evidence in court contradicted what she had told police and magistrates in previous statements, even when it came to being attracted to Freeman.
"On such a simple point she is unable to be straightforward, frank and consistent," she said. Ms Weekes added that although the two were interrupted three times, the girl did not raise the alarm. It would be a travesty of justice to convict my client on this kind of evidence," Times Online quoted her, as saying.
Standing in the dock, Freeman bowed his head slightly as the verdict was returned. But in the public gallery, some of his friends and family shouted "yes" while others started crying as the verdict was read out.