A FORMER police officer has been cleared of sexually assaulting four women over a two-year period.

Malcolm Fawcett nervously bowed his head in the dock as the jury were set to return their verdicts after a three-week trial at Teesside Crown Court.

His wife, Audra, who is a serving Detective Inspector at Durham Police, sobbed as the not guilty verdicts were returned on all 11 charges.

The jury considered their verdicts over two days in connection with charges which all related to his time as a senior member of Brancepeth Castle Golf Club.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the alleged assaults all took place between January 2016 until January last year.

The 57-year-old, of High Carr Close, Framwellgate Moor, Durham, had always strenuously denied the charges.

During the trial, Mr Fawcett admitted that he could be 'crass and unprofessional' but strenuously denied all of the charges.

He said he would regularly hug women to offer them encouragement and 'they never gave the impression that they didn't like it'.

In evidence, he told his barrister, Caroline Goodwin QC, that the claims had left him feeling 'horrified' and couldn't understand why they had been made against him as he didn't believe he had done anything sexually inappropriate.

He said: "I was destroyed to be honest, because I thought we had a good relationship – I was absolutely flabbergasted."

The court heard that Fawcett, who had retired from Durham Police in May 2015 after almost 20 years' service, apologised to all the women concerned and thought that would have been the end of it.

During police interview, Mr Fawcett denied the claims saying he was a "father figure" to the women, who were younger than his daughters.

Whilst in Consett police station in County Durham in July 2018 Fawcett told Detective Constable Gary Agnew that he enjoyed a "friendly, positive, tactile sort of relationship" with is accusers.

He said one of them was taller than his wife which had led to an accidental brushing of her breast when he gave her a friendly cuddle, but denied the groping, touching and slapping he is accused off.

And he claimed he was a victim rather than a perpetrator saying he had been intimately groped at a champagne bar in front of his friends, leaving him shocked.

He also said women golfers would kiss him on the lips in front of his disapproving wife.

A former police force colleague of the couple, David Threadgill, who was also in charge of the catering at the golf club for several years, told the court that they were unaware of any complaints made against Fawcett concerning his behaviour.

The jury of seven men and five woman heard evidence from the four alleged victims during the three-week long trial.

One of the woman alleged that Mr Fawcett had 'dry humped' her when she was bent over and on another occasion he put his cold hands down her top and between her breasts to warm them up after a round of golf.

He also allegedly asked one woman for "dirty pictures" in return for help with buying a car and asked the same woman to visit him in the showers with a towel.

Jurors heard women at the club thought Fawcett was "creepy" but his role as club captain meant he was considered too "influential" to make a complaint about in the early stages of his two year campaign of sexual assault.

Following the not guilty verdicts, Mr Fawcett was hugged by his wife and members of his family, who had been at court throughout the trial to support him.