A jury has heard how the former owner of a petting zoo accused of sexually assaulting a young girl dropped his mobile phone in a duck pond before police arrived at the farm.

Mark Hebdon told the officer he had inadvertently dropped his phone while trying to catch an injured duck at Monk Park Farm near Thirsk - he no longer owns the business.

The 55-year-old is accused of pushing the girl onto the ground and forcing her to perform a sex act on him while on the farm premises.

He was spotted kissing the teenager in 2019 by at least one witness but denies the abuse claim he faces, Teesside Crown Court heard.

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In cross examination from defence barrister, Tania Griffiths KC, said the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denied making up her evidence to support her friend.

Ms Griffiths asked: “There’s no doubt that she told you about the affair?” The witness replied: “No.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “Yes,” was her reply.

She continued: “She told me she was having an affair, she loved him and he loved her. She said he was going to leave his wife and move in with him, is that right?” The teenager replied: “No.”

The barrister put it to the witness that she was making up her evidence to support her friend, a claim the teenager denied.

The jury heard how a number of messages between Hebdon and the complainant were found on the teenager’s mobile phone but the defendant’s phone had never been recovered from the pond on the farm.

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Earlier in the trial, the alleged victim told detectives how the defendant had abused her over a period of a year when she says he forced her to carry out a sex act on him on a number of occasions.

In her video recorded evidence, the complainant told officers how they were having an affair despite their age difference and that Hebdon had promised to leave his wife for her.

Hebdon, of John Street, Great Ayton, near Stokesley, denies three charges – sexual activity with a child and two counts of sexual activity with a child.

The trial continues.