Smith Of The Star: Nobody can take away that girl’s right to justice

Guilty: Ched Evans.
Guilty: Ched Evans.
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The Star’s award winning writer Martin Smith was in court as Sheffield United striker Ched Evans was jailed for rape - here’s his account of the day.

NO football match, and few court cases, have ever ended with such twisting drama as this.

For a few fleeting moments it looked like Sheffield United striker Ched Evans was about to be cleared of rape at the end of a six-day trial.

The public gallery at Caernarfon Crown Court was in uproar as a jury of seven men and five women declared Clayton McDonald not guilty of rape.

They assumed a similar verdict would follow for Evans.

He sobbed uncontrollably in the glass-fronted dock as the McDonald and Evans families celebrated with screams of ‘Yes’ and ‘Thank God’ .

The judge demanded order be restored and the public gallery was cleared.

The ecstatic group left with whoops of joy pent up for almost a year.

They thought it was all over.

Then the jurors were led back in to the now silent court room and the foreman was asked by Judge Merfyn Hughes QC to give their verdict on the second accused, Chedwyn Michael Evans.

“Guilty,” rang out loud and chillingly clear.

The 34-goal, £3 million Sheffield United striker sank back into his seat, head in hands, in fresh floods of tears.

McDonald embraced his broken friend and walked free.

As the Port Vale player left the court, the squeals of joy in the corridor outside turned to agonised, disbelieving wailing as McDonald and others broke the news.

“No he’s not, no he’s not,” came the guttural, desperate cry of a grieving woman.

Evans stood deathly white and staring into his own misery as Judge Hughes handed down the five-year sentence before the 23-year-old was led down to the cells.

No fictional thriller or last-minute heroics could match the drama that unfolded between 3.17pm and 3.26pm yesterday with a man’s liberty in the balance in the cavernous Caernarfon Crown Court number one.

Men weeping, women screaming, and the unmistakable sound of vomiting echoed around the second floor landing as the news sank in.

Earlier in the day those same families had occupied waiting-area seats, full of nerves.

Ched Evans had sat among them waiting, one moment smiling, the next his face a mass of worry, his life on a knife-edge.

He sipped tea, used an iPad and nibbled on a KitKat as the four hours and 52 minutes of jury deliberations slipped slowly by.

At 2.15pm there was false alarm as the 12 men and women and true came back into court - only to tell the judge they could not reach a unanimous decision. More agony.

Then the bombshell and the fall-out.

But a football career suspended is nothing compared to the damage done to a young woman’s life by rape.

Though it won’t end there.

“We’re going to get him out, he’s done nothing wrong, we’re going to get him out for sure,” sobbed Evans’ girlfriend Tasha as she was consoled by a Sheffield United official just moments later.

With mascara-streaked cheeks and red, disbelieving eyes, she and the club official were looking for a door that would lead them to the cells so she could speak to her boyfriend before he was taken to prison.

“There will be an appeal,” says the Blades representative who had been with the Evans’ family when the double verdict was announced.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Tasha. “We’re going to get him out. I know he hasn’t done anything.”

But along with Tasha’s genuine sorrow it has to be remembered that another, younger girl also stared through reddened eyes and running mascara as she told a friend, and later police, what had happened to her at Evans’ hand in the Premier Inn at Rhudlann on May 29, 2011.

The jury believed her, and unanimously convicted Evans of rape.

That girl deserves justice and no drama on earth, no matter how heart-rending, can ever be allowed to take away her right to that.