FOOTBALLER Steve Cook and three former team mates were today cleared at the Old Bailey of taking pictures of themselves and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in a hotel.
The 22-year-old Bournemouth player along with Anton Rodgers, 20, Lewis Dunk, George Barker, both 21, were accused of humiliating the woman after she fell asleep in their hotel room.
They were cleared after a day and a half of jury deliberations at the end of a two week long trial.
The reserve players, who were celebrating a local cup final victory in July 2011, took snaps of themselves exposing themselves next to her unconscious body.
She claimed to have discovered the pictures on Rodgers’ phone after waking up the next morning to find her bra removed and her short pink skirt pulled up to her waist.
The teenager, who had met the players at a local nightclub, at first told police she had been attacked by five men in the street.
She then said she decided to name the Brighton footballers six months later after another squad member, Kasenga LuaLua, 22, threatened to put photos and videos of the night on Youtube.
Reporting restrictions, which had previously banned naming LuaLua during the sex trial, were lifted yesterday after an affray charge against the winger was dropped at Newcastle Crown Court.
The footballers all denied any sexual assault and claimed it was ‘just a laugh’ and a ‘bit of boy banter.’
They admitted they had exposed themselves but denied they had assaulted the sleeping victim or that any of the snaps were for ‘sexual gratification’.
Jurors deliberated for eight hours and 53 minutes before clearing them of sexual assault.
Gasps and weeping could be heard from the public gallery, where Brendan Rodger, Liverpool manager and father of Anton Rodgers, watched with other members of the footballers’ families.
The Old Bailey trial revealed modern footballers’ attitude to women who might be called ‘wannabe WAGS.’
Prosecutors claimed that Rodgers and his teammates decided to humiliate the 19 year-old woman because they thought she was ‘a bit of a slapper’.
When she complained and asked for the photos to be deleted, they laughed in her face and suggested she should be happy to star in the photos.
The victim was later taunted by LuaLua who told her the pictures had gone round the whole club and she was ‘a bit famous.’
Rodgers and his friends believed they had done nothing wrong and it was just a bit of fun.
Rodgers and Barker, both Brighton; Dunk, of Woodbourne Avenue, Brighton; and Cook, of Perth Road, St Leonards, East Sussex, all denied sexual assault and voyeurism.