The jury has retired in the trial of an ex-petting zoo owner accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl.

Mark Hebdon is accused of pushing the girl onto the ground and forcing her to perform a sex act on him while on the farm premises, which he no longer owns.

The 55-year-old was spotted kissing the teenager in 2019 by at least one witness but denies the abuse claims he faces, Teesside Crown Court heard.

During his evidence, Hebdon told the jury that he thought of himself as a ‘father-figure’ to the teenager and categorically denied having any sexual activity with her.

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Earlier in the trial, jurors 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.

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 while the jury retires to consider its verdict.