Sunderland footballer Jack Diamond was today (Monday January 7) cleared of both the rape and sexual assault of a woman invited to his flat.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court returned "not guilty" verdicts on each count less than an hour after retiring to deliberate on the fifth day of the 23-year-old winger's trial.

After the jury foreman delivered the verdicts there were brief cheers and applause from the public gallery in Court Six at the Quayside court centre.

Judge Edward Bindloss asked members of the public to, "please restrain yourselves", before discharging the defendant from the dock.

He told him: "That brings an end to the matter.

"You are free to go."

Mr Diamond held his head in his hands in relief on hearing the verdicts and then left the dock.

It ends what was described as, "an 18-month nightmare" by his counsel, Eleanor Laws KC.

The player was alleged to have committed both offences on a woman invited to his flat, in Fatfield, Washington, on the night of Saturday May 7, 2022.

During the trial the court heard that the defendant and the complainant met on the dating site Tinder, in late 2019, and agreed to be “friends with benefits”, in what was a 95-per cent sexual relationship.

Following a lengthy period in 2021 when he blocked her on Snapchat, they resumed their relationship on the same terms as in the past, that it was predominantly for sex.

The Northern Echo: Sunderland footballer Jack Diamond has gone on trial at Newcastle Crown Court accused of rape and

The alleged offences are said to have taken place after the defendant rang the woman late on the evening of Saturday May 7, 2022, to see if she wanted to go to his flat.

She agreed, on the basis it was purely for “cuddles and company” as she was on a strong form medication for acne and said she could not risk becoming pregnant due to potential knock-on effects.

The woman accepted driving to Mr Diamond’s flat in her pyjames and joining him in bed, where, after some initial cuddling and consensual sexual touching, she alleged the sexual assault and rape took place after the defendant forced himself on her.

She left and contacted a friend who met her on her return home in a distressed state, where her father made a 999 call.

The court heard she initially told police she had been sexually assaulted, but not raped, although in her full police interview, a month later, she said she thought she had also been raped.

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Mr Diamond was arrested at his flat on the morning of May 8 and interviewed later the same day.

He denied both allegations and said any sexual activity that took place between them the previous night had been consensual.

Giving his closing address to the jury, prosecution counsel David Povall said an exchange of messages between the pair in February 2022 gave a “snapshot” of what happened between the defendant and the complainant.

He said while Mr Diamond considered their relationship was about sex, the complainant “didn’t mind the consensual sex", but, felt: “Don’t take advantage of me.”

Mr Povall asked the jury: “You are entitled to ask yourself why would she make this up to put herself through this (the investigation and trial)?”The Northern Echo: Jack Diamond, pictured in action for Sunderland, today denied the rape of a woman in May 2022 and

He said Mr Diamond’s account of events in the bedroom that night “did not make sense”.

Miss Laws,for Mr Diamond, said he had taken the woman at her word that, like him, she just wanted a sexual relationship, as both had come out of long-term relationships.

She said Mr Diamond’s evidence was consistent throughout, while she said the complainant’s version was less reliable.

Miss Laws invited the jury to acquit her client, “to end the nightmare he has been living for the last 18 months.”

The defendant, of Fatfield, Washington, who has no previous convictions, denied both rape and sexual assault.

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He was suspended by the club when he was charged in late March, last year, while his season-long loan deal with League One club Lincoln City was also immediately terminated, leaving the defendant's football career in limbo.

Among the character testimonials given to the court during the hearing were those from Mr Diamond's friend and flatmate Anthony Patterson, the current Sunderland first team goalkeeper, club coach Michael Proctor, plus Paul Thirlwell the assistant manager when the defendant was on loan in two spells at Harrogate Town FC.

The court heard the player had been at Sunderland's academy from his younger teenage years, and made his first team debut at the age of 18, before playing on loan at both Harrogate and Lincoln City.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Diamond said: "I have today been acquitted of all charges at Newcastle Crown Court.

"I have always maintained my innocence and today marks my total exoneration - underlined by the jury reaching its verdict in seven minutes. 

"I am grateful to the jury for considering the evidence carefully and reaching what is the correct conclusion.

"I have always said I was looking forward to clearing my name in court. The last 13 months have been hugely challenging."

After the conclusion of the trial, Sunderland AFC realeased a statement confirming that the player would return to training.

The statement said: "Sunderland AFC notes the verdict from Newcastle Crown Court today, where a jury has found Jack Diamond not guilty of all charges.

"Following the conclusion of the judicial process, Jack will now return to the Academy of Light and resume footballing activity.

"SAFC will be making no further comment at this time."