Nine men accused of repeatedly raping a 14-year-old girl walked free from court after messages she posted on Twitter torpedoed the case against them.
The defendants heard the prosecution was being halted after the posts came to light just as the case was due to start.
The nine, some of who have been held in custody awaiting trial, were told the tweets meant there was ‘no longer a realistic prospect of conviction’.
It was not revealed what was in the archived messages ‘which were not publicly available’ and were overlooked because of confusion over the name of the account.
Judge John Bevan said: ‘It’s unfortunate this happened so late; it’s unfortunate some defendants have been in custody. But these are very serious matters and these have to be gone into.’
The men, aged between 21 and 30, were arrested on the back of a four-month police investigation and charged with 28 offences, including several rapes.
The attacks were said to have taken place at houses in London’s East End or in the back of cars.
Although the complainant, now 15, told prosecutors about her tweets, the Old Bailey was told they only ‘came to light through a side-wind’.
The Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘This new material concerned archived Twitter messages which were not previously known about and which undermined the prosecution case.
‘It was decided following this review that there was no longer sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction in this case.’
The men, who were arrested in a series of dawn raids in London in March, remained silent as Judge Bevan formally recorded not guilty verdicts.
As he left the courtroom, one defendant, Olanrewaju Sonde, 24, said: ‘It’s just a relief that this is finally over.’
- Nine men cleared of sex offences against teenager after new evidence comes to light on Twitter (london24.com)
- Rape charges dropped after alleged victim’s Twitter feed casts doubt on case (worldnews.nbcnews.com)
- Trial collapses against nine men accused of rape after police discover new evidence on old Twitter account from when she was 14 (thisismoney.co.uk)