Liverpool and England footballer Raheem Sterling had a charge of common assault dropped today after a witness failed to turn up to court.
Sterling, 18, did not have to appear at Liverpool Magistrates' Court and the case was dismissed when prosecutor Rob Jones offered no evidence.
The Jamaican-born Premier League star had been accused of assaulting a woman in Toxteth, Liverpool, last November.
The teenager, reportedly paid £30,000 a week, had always denied the allegation of assault and had hired top barrister Stuart Driver QC to defend him.
His legal costs will now be paid for by the taxpayer so he would not be "out of pocket" the court heard.
The case has been before Liverpool Magistrates' Court on three previous occasions, none of which the Premier League winger attended.
Sterling has not played for Liverpool since March
Today Sterling is understood to have waited in a silver Mercedes people carrier on a street around the corner from Liverpool Magistrates' Court and did not enter the building for the 10am case to be called on.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, Sterling's agent and other club officials also waited in the car until news came from court that the case had been dropped - to the disappointment of waiting photographers and TV cameras at the court entrance.
Instead prosecutor Mr Jones waited until 10.45am until abandoning the case when witnesses failed to attend court.
Mr Jones told District Judge Richard Clancy that two witnesses, a Rachel Smith and a woman known only as Miss Hall, were contacted on Friday and the "expectation" was they would attend to give evidence - but neither had.
"I'm conscious of, one, the nature of the offence and two, the interest in the case.
"I don't consider it appropriate to issue a witness warrant for the arrest of Miss Hall."
The court heard the allegation was of a minor common assault and it was not in the public interest to force alleged victims and witnesses to come to court for such a matter.
"The only application I can make is to formally offer no evidence in respect of this case," Mr Jones added.
Mr Driver, for Sterling, told the judge: "This was a minor allegation against a teenager of previous good character and Raheem Sterling has always insisted he's done nothing wrong.
Sterling made his England debut in November last year
"Could I ask you to make a defence costs order on the understanding that there's strict limits on that, so he would not be out of pocket?
"The defendant has remained just outside court in a private place."
Judge Clancy replied: "The prosecution having offered no evidence, then the case will be dismissed. Defence costs from central funds."
Sterling, who lives in Woolton, Liverpool, was aged 17 at the time of the alleged incident.
He was charged with common assault on the 27-year-old victim, who is known to the player, after she suffered "slight" facial injuries last November 2.
He had entered a formal not guilty plea through his lawyers at the last hearing in March but exact details of the incident are not known as the case was never formally opened in court.
Signed for £600,000 from QPR, Sterling earned plaudits for his performances for Liverpool this season before being sidelined through injury since April.
He was called up to the full England squad for his senior international debut last November against Sweden.
A month later he switched from a youth to a full professional contract on turning 18, signing a five-year deal with Liverpool worth a reported £30,000 a week.
Liverpool FC declined to comment on the case.
Suggested For You
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more