A former Coronation Street actor has been cleared of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
Andrew Lancel, 42, who played Frank Foster in the popular soap, was cleared of four charges relating to the youngster dating back to 1994 when the teenager was attending a theatre group.
The jury took just 29 minutes to clear the star of all counts.
Lancel bit his lip and looked to the ceiling as his wife Louise burst into tears in the public gallery when the verdict was delivered at Liverpool Crown Court.
The actor, from Gateacre in Liverpool, was charged last November under his real name Andrew Watkinson.
Judge Clement Goldstone QC, thanked the jury who left the courtroom before the defendant left the dock.
The judge, speaking to the defendant’s barrister, Andrew Menary QC, said: “The defendant was acquitted on the evidence, and rightly so, but it is important that the complainant who is clearly scarred by an experience, should understand that the jury verdicts does not necessarily involve rejection of his account of a sexual encounter or encounters with the defendant.
“It is a statement that the prosecution have failed to make the jury sure that abuse of the type alleged occurred during the period covered by the indictment and in particular before the complainant’s 16th birthday, now more than 18 years ago.”
The character Frank Foster was introduced in the soap as a business associate of Carla Connor.
Lancel walked out of court, a free man, hand in hand with his wife Louise. He declined to comment on the case.
Lancel’s solicitor, Stuart Nolan, read a short statement on behalf of the actor outside court. It read: “Andrew would like to thank his family and friends and all parties for their support and prayers.
“He just wants to spend time with his family.”