Barman cleared of raping 97-year-old
A BARMAN from Essex has been cleared of raping a bedridden 97-year-old woman at her sheltered home last year.Joe Ashendon, 21, of Hamlet Road, Chelmsford, had denied attacking the woman and claimed his drink was spiked during a night out after finishing his shift at the pub where he worked.
A BARMAN from Essex has been cleared of raping a bedridden 97-year-old woman at her sheltered home last year.
Joe Ashendon, 21, of Hamlet Road, Chelmsford, had denied attacking the woman and claimed his drink was spiked during a night out after finishing his shift at the pub where he worked.
The jury at Chelmsford Crown Court took three hours and 47 minutes to come to its verdict and found him not guilty of rape and assault by penetration.
He was also cleared of an alternative charge of sexual assault.
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There were gasps and tearful outbursts from the gallery as the verdicts were given and Mr Ashendon was welcomed on the courthouse steps with open arms by his friends and family.
More than 20 supporters were in the court for the conclusion of the eight-day trial and outside a relative told the EADT that it had been a “travesty” that the case had ever been brought to the court.
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Mr Ashendon had been accused of breaking into the ground floor flat of the elderly woman in the early hours of April 2, 2006 and was later found asleep and half naked in the room of an 81-year-old neighbour in the same complex, in the Moulsham Street area of Chelmsford.
The 97-year-old was taken to hospital and Mr Ashendon was arrested, initially on suspicion of burglary and criminal damage, before later facing the more serious charges.
During the trial, the court heard that blood taken from Mr Ashendon contained traces of ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis - he had also drunk a pint of beer and four double vodkas during the evening.
In police interviews, aired to the court, Mr Ashendon admitted to taking ecstasy on the night and said he had no memory of the later events, adding: “I must have had my drink spiked.”
The elderly woman died three weeks after the alleged incident, the court had heard.
After the verdict Judge Christopher Ball QC refused to award costs to Mr Ashendon, whose grandfather had funded his case.
He said that although the jury had cleared him of the specific charges, Mr Ashendon's conduct had caused sufficient “misery and grief” for him to reach that decision.
He added that the real reason that Mr Ashendon had ended up in the situation was that he “couldn't leave drink and drugs alone” and that both the trial and the year he had previously spent in custody would serve as a warning to him and others who used drugs.
He told Mr Ashendon: “You have had the fright of your life. It (the cost request) is not an order that I like to refuse, but this is one of the rare cases where it seems to be justified.”