14/08/2014 16:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Kevin Webster Coming Back To Coronation Street. Actor Michael Le Vell Found Not Guilty Of Child Rape

Michael Le Vell - Kevin Webster in Coronation Street - found not guilty of child rape and sexual assault

Actor Michael Le Vell, who plays Kevin Webster in Coronation Street, has been found not guilty of raping and sexually assaulting a girl from the age of six.

Mr Le Vell, 48, of Hale, Greater Manchester, denied 12 charges in total, including five of rape. His accuser, who cannot be named, claimed she was abused from the age of six until she was 14.

Speaking outside court, he thanked his family and ITV for their support and said he was 'going to have a drink'.

Mr Le Vell, who has played garage mechanic Kevin Webster in the soap for 30 years, was tried at Manchester Crown Court under his real name Michael Turner.

The jury of eight women and four men took four hours to return verdicts of not guilty on all counts.

The jurors had been told they must decide if the alleged victim was telling the truth or set out to 'quite literally destroy the life' of the actor.

The actor had also faced charges of indecent assault, sexual activity with a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

As the verdicts were read out, Mr Le Vell nodded to the jury and mouthed 'thank you' as relatives in court sobbed. As he left the court he said he was 'delighted' and that the result was 'a weight off everyone's shoulders'. He is now expected to return to the soap.

An ITV spokesman said: "We are looking forward to meeting with Michael to discuss his return to the programme."

His accuser, now aged 17, had told the court he had raped her while putting a teddy bear over her mouth to keep her quiet.

She alleged that he had told her he was 'just getting rid of all the evil and bad inside me'.

But Alisdair Williamson, for the defence, said her evidence was 'inconsistent' and 'unbelievable' with an 'agonising lack of detail'.

During the eight day trial married Mr Mr Le Vell admitted he had battled 'demons' in his private life and that he was an alcoholic, who would drink up to nine pints a night, and had also had one-night stands.

Mr Williamson told the jury that while Le Vell might be described as a 'weak, stupid and drunk man' and a 'bad husband", he was not a child rapist.