Footballers to face no action

TWO Premiership footballers questioned over an alleged "gang rape" of a 17-year-old girl will not be charged because there is "insufficient evidence', the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed last night .

TWO Premiership footballers questioned over an alleged "gang rape" of a 17-year-old girl will not be charged because there is "insufficient evidence', the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed last night .

The alleged attack was said to have taken place in September at the exclusive Grosvenor House Hotel in central London.

Scotland Yard launched an investigation and interviewed former Ipswich Town defender Titus Bramble, 22, and Chelsea striker Carlton Cole, 19, who is currently on loan to Charlton Athletic, as well as two other men - party organiser Nicholas Meikle, 29, and his friend Jason Edwards, 26.

But CPS lawyer Claire Ward, a specialist rape prosecutor, said last night: "We have now carefully reviewed all the evidence in the case in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors and have concluded that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against any of the four suspects for any offence.


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"The file was also sent to Treasury counsel for advice and counsel independently reached the same conclusion.'

Ms Ward said: "Project Sapphire officers have thoroughly and professionally investigated all aspects of the allegations.'

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The CPS said its advice was passed to police last night, who informed the complainant and suspects' solicitors of the decision.

All four men were due to answer bail next week.

Meikle, from Catford, south London, had called the allegations "groundless'.

He said the girl agreed to have sex with him and then consented to sex with the other men.

The investigation into the teenager's claims was carried out by Scotland Yard's Operation Sapphire team, which handles sex crimes.

Bramble, who now plays for Newcastle United, and Cole voluntarily attended London police stations in October.

The players were not initially identified when news of the alleged rape was first reported.

Rumours about their identities flooded the internet and at one point England and Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer issued a statement denying his involvement.

After Bramble and Cole's names emerged, their lawyer Graham Shear said: "They have always maintained they have done nothing unlawful.'

A statement issued last night by Mr Shear, on behalf of the footballers, said the decision marked an end of the "exhaustive' police investigation.

He said: "It has been confirmed by the authorities this evening that neither Titus Bramble nor Carlton Cole are to be charged with any offence in relation to the alleged events of last September at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

"My clients have always categorically denied these allegations and this significant announcement marks the closure to an exhaustive four-month police investigation and demonstrates that my clients have not committed any crime whatsoever.'

He said the footballers had co-operated fully with all police inquiries and were now thankful that the "speculation' could end.

"No further comment will be made by my clients or their families,' Mr Shear added.

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