A RETIRED engineer has been cleared of sexually assaulting a hostess on the first class carriage of train.

The jury took less than hour to find Arthur Wellings not guilty of stroking the woman's breasts as she served him and a friend while travelling between Newcastle and York last year.

The 84-year-old always maintained that if he did touch the complainant's breast it was by accident.

During the three-day trial, Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Wellings, of Beckett Drive, York, and his former boss, Neil Wagstaff, a retired chief executive of a multi-national specialist engineering firm, had been returning home from Newcastle at the time of the allegation.

The jury of eight men and four women returned their verdict after 50 minutes and Judge Peter Armstrong told the defendant he was free go.

Earlier in the trial, Mr Wagstaff branded the alleged victim 'stupid and wicked' for accusing his long-time friend and father-figure of the attack.

During a fractious exchange with prosecuting barrister, Robin Turton, the retired chief executive furiously denied Mr Wellings had done anything wrong during the incident and was shocked when his friend was arrested at Darlington Railway Station.

Robin Turton, prosecuting, had told the jury that the complainant had been left crying and upset as a result of Mr Wellings actions, which were described as 'boorish' during the trial.

He told the court that the complainant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said she 'felt a hand run from her right breast to her left. It travelled the width of her body then closed slightly when it reached her left breast, in a groping motion'.

Mr Turton added: "He appeared to be flirting with her. She ignored it and began to pour a coffee for the defendant. She had a cup in her left hand and the kettle in her right. Out of the blue the defendant said, 'I’m going to feel your tits'.

"Unsurprisingly this remark made her uncomfortable but, she ignored it presuming he was trying to be funny and was just showing off to his friend."

However, during his evidence Mr Wagstaff branded those claims ludicrous and maintained that the alleged victim had reacted like a 'Hollywood actress' when his friend inadvertently touched her on the arm.

He said: "The woman made a dramatic 'oh' and pulled away," he said. "Arthur said 'I'm sorry, did I touch your tittie?' – I will never forget it.

"At the time I thought it was an Oscar-worthy performance – I thought no he didn't (touch her breast) but if he did it was by accident."