Wales international footballer Ched Evans, 27, has been found not guilty of raping a teenager in a hotel in north Wales following a two week retrial at Cardiff Crown Court.
Evans and his partner Natasha Massey wept as the verdict was announced.
In a statement read outside Cardiff Crown Court, Evans, who plays for League One side Chesterfield, said he was “overwhelmed with relief” following the not guilty verdict.
He said: “In the early hours of 30 May 2011, an incident occurred in North Wales that was to change my life and the lives of others for ever. That incident did not involve the commission of a criminal offence and today I am overwhelmed with relief that the Jury agreed.
“I would like to thank my legal team, Judy Khan QC and David Emmanuel of Garden Court Chambers, London and Shaun Draycott of Draycott Browne Solicitors, Manchester, for their tireless efforts on my behalf.
“Thanks go too, to my friends and family, most notably my fiancee, Natasha, who chose, perhaps incredibly, to support me in my darkest hour.
“While my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question.”
Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner said: “We are naturally delighted with the outcome, especially for Ched, his family and friends. We can now all move forward and focus on football.”
The former Sheffield United, Manchester City and Norwich player was jailed in 2012 for the rape of a 19-year-old woman at a Premier Inn near Rhyl in Denbighshire, north Wales in May 2011.
He was released after serving half his sentence but his conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April.
The 27-year-old has always insisted upon his innocence.
In October last year, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred Evans’ case to the Court of Appeal on the basis of new information following a 10 month investigation.