Neville father cleared of attack

Preston and Leyland Citizen: Neville Neville has been cleared of sexual assault by a jury at Bolton Crown Court Neville Neville has been cleared of sexual assault by a jury at Bolton Crown Court

The father of former England footballers Gary and Phil Neville has been cleared of sexually assaulting a woman.

Neville Neville, 64, admitted he engaged in sexual activity with the middle-aged complainant in her car just 20 yards from his house but said it was consensual.

The woman told a jury at Bolton Crown Court that Neville drunkenly forced himself upon her.

Neville bowed his head as the woman foreman delivered the verdict after the jury deliberated for just under 75 minutes.

He then breathed a sigh of relief and looked upwards before he mouthed "Thank you" in the direction of the jury.

After he was told he could leave the dock, he stepped out and hugged his legal team.

Asked for a comment outside the courtroom, Neville said: "I can't say anything right now. Maybe later."

His son, Gary, who cried as the verdict was delivered, stepped in and said: "Dad, come on. He won't be saying anything."

The incident took place in the early hours of March 23 in Neville's home town of Bury, Greater Manchester, following a night out.

He said that, as the complainant parked her car near his home, he leant over and said: "Give us a kiss, sweetheart."

He said he was expecting to kiss her on the cheek but she turned her head, their lips locked and it turned into a "passionate kiss".

Neville said the woman responded enthusiastically and sexual activity carried on until he asked if she wanted full sex and she said "Don't be silly".

The woman told police later the same day that the former Bury Football Club director had drunkenly forced himself upon her and she had frozen as he stuck his tongue down her throat, groped her, licked her face and then put his hands down her trousers.

Neville voluntarily went to his local police station the following day and gave his version of events without wanting a solicitor.

At the end of the interview, when he was told about the nature of the complaint, he requested a phone call to his wife, Jill, club secretary with Bury FC, who was given the freedom of the town last year.

He told the jury, his voice breaking: "I'm going to drop the biggest bombshell ever on my family.

"I thought basically I have not sexually assaulted anybody, I don't need a solicitor. I said I want to speak to my wife because I knew she would be worried.

"I was worried as well that I was going to drop the biggest bombshell of her life on top of her."

His barrister, Orlando Pownall QC, asked him: "Did it cross your mind to say nothing?"

He said: "Never."

Mr Pownall asked: "Did it cross your mind to deny it and avoid upset for your family?"

Neville replied: "No."

His barrister continued: "How easy was it to tell the truth?"

The defendant said: "It was very easy to tell the truth."

Mr Pownall asked: "How hard was it, knowing about the bombshell you have described?"

Neville said: "It was hard."

His barrister asked: "When did that bomb explode?"

He answered: "With my wife on the car park of the police station."

He then told the jury how he told his wife about the allegation.

"We got in the car and she said 'What has happened?' and I said 'I have been accused of sexual assault'," he said.

"She said 'Who with?... Do I know her?'.

"I said 'I don't think you do'. She said 'Did you have sex with her?' I actually said 'Yes, we did have a sexual encounter' and she just broke down.

"She said 'Where did you do it?' and I said 'At the end of our road'. That made her more upset."

He said his wife "stormed" into the kitchen when they entered the house as he explained the situation to his son, Phil, and daughter, Tracey, an international netball player.

Mr Pownall asked if he had since had a conversation with his wife in which she had asked a particular question that he would never forget.

Neville, who was wearing his wedding ring in court, replied: "She asked why did I do it?

"First I said I didn't know. I was in a state. I told her everything from start to finish, I told her everything but she couldn't understand why I had done this.

"I said 'I have let you down, I have let you down so badly, it's hard to explain why.'

"She turned round and said 'Did you enjoy it?' and I said 'Yes, I did'.

"She then said... I won't swear...'That's the bleeding reason why you did it'."

Earlier, he said that before he left the car he told the woman she was "lovely" and he stroked her face.

"She asked if I was happy and I said 'I'm the happiest man in the world'.

"Then she turned round and said 'This is just sex' and I said 'No, not at all'.

"She said 'What is it then?' and I said 'It's an opportunity that we both responded to'."

Asked by Mr Pownall why he kissed the woman near his own home, Neville replied: "I have got the most wonderful family in the world... I made a major error.

"I cannot even say it was a mistake. I knew what I was doing. I was enjoying the moment. She was enjoying the moment.

"When it all finished it became a mistake. My biggest nightmare."

Gary and Phil Neville sat in court throughout the trial to support their father while sister Tracey joined them today.

Yesterday, an emotional Gary Neville went into the witness box to defend his father's reputation.

He revealed that his parents were "broken" and the soul of their marriage had been "ripped up" as, close to tears, he added that he did not want his mother to be called to give evidence.

Gary Neville said of his father: "I could never say a bad word about him.

"He is a human being, he has made mistakes but nothing like this.

"It is so completely removed from the existence I have had in my life and for the whole of the family.

"We have never had anything like this at all."

Mr Pownall asked him: "How important is the truth to your father?"

He replied: "He always tells the truth. At times in the last nine months I have known he has been talking to my mum about the graphic details and telling her the warts-and-all story.

"I have told him to shut his mouth."

"Why?" asked the barrister.

"Because I was trying to protect Mum. There are two issues. A personal issue that is still ongoing and may be ongoing forever. And a legal issue which I have never concerned myself with because I knew he was telling the truth.

"I didn't know if it was going the whole way. I wanted to protect my mum so she would not hear the graphic details and have those thoughts in her head for the rest of her life."

He said he would go to his parents for tea every week but said they were now "vacant".

"They disappear when they are together," he said. "It's ripped the soul out of the marriage.

"My mum (Jill) stands by him because she believes in him 100%. He has made a big mistake."

Mr Pownall asked: "Is your mum prepared to give evidence if necessary?"

"Yes," he replied.

"Do you want her to give evidence?"

Gary Neville said: "Never."

"Why?"

Close to tears, he replied: "I don't want her in here. I don't want her exposed to it.

"She has not made the mistake.

"I don't want her to go through any more pain.

"She is a private person who just works and loves her family.

"She is around the corner and ready to come in if she needs to.

"She is 100% standing by my dad but we don't want her in here."

A spokesman for the Neville family said they did not wish to comment about the case.

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