Coronation Street star Michael Le Vell has been found not guilty of rape.
The actor – who has portrayed mechanic Kevin Webster since 1983 in the popular soap – nodded as the first “not guilty” was delivered in Manchester Crown Court.
By the final acquittal, Michael smiled and looking over to the jury, mouthed the words, “Thank you”.
PHOTO FOR GALLERY
The actor had been accused of carrying out a series of sex attacks between 2001 and 2010 on a girl who was aged six when the abuse began.
“I’m delighted, obviously – it’s a big weight off everyone’s shoulders,” said Michael, speaking as he left the court building.
“I’d just like to thank my fantastic legal team, my family for their support, security, and I’d like to thank ITV for their continued support throughout this traumatic time for all of us.”
Several members of his family had stood by the actor, whose real name is Michael Turner, throughout the trial, and together they left the court in high spirits.
The 48-year-old said the situation had brought him even closer to his sisters, two of whom were rushed to hospital with symptoms doctors told them were bought on by the stress just before the trial.
When charges were brought earlier this year, the TV star was suspended from the series. He released a statement saying he was “innocent” and intended to “fight the charges vigorously”.
Before the start of proceedings, jurors were warned not to confuse the actor with his character and told that anyone who considered themselves a fan of his would be excused. Two women asked to be removed from the panel and were replaced by substitutes.
“The man on trial is Michael Turner, not the character he plays,” said judge Michael Henshell.
The soap actor has two children from his marriage to fellow Corrie actress Janette Beverly. Their 25-year union broke down in 2011. His career began when the Mancunian joined the Oldham Theatre Workshop after expressing an interest in drama at school.
After landing the role of Kevin, Michael quickly established himself as a favourite with viewers who followed the trials and tribulations of his character’s marriage to Sally and the birth of their two girls, Rosie and Sophie, as well as a son, Jack, from his affair with Molly Dobbs.