Alex Hepburn (pictured in his police mugshot) was today found guilty of raping a woman during a ‘sexual conquest competition’ set up on a WhatsApp group
A former county cricketer was today found guilty of raping a woman during a ‘sexual conquest competition’ set up on a WhatsApp group.
Ex-Worcestershire star Alex Hepburn had denied two counts of rape relating to the incident in the early hours of April 1, 2017 at his flat in Worcester.
He was convicted of one charge at Worcester Crown Court today, but was cleared of a second rape charge relating to the same victim.
Hepburn sighed and then slumped into his seat, covered his face with his hands and sobbed after the verdict was returned by the foreman.
Prosecutors claimed the 23-year-old began to rape the woman while she was asleep after getting into her bed, where she had earlier had consensual sex with his then-teammate Joe Clarke.
The complainant, who cannot be identified, told the court she was left shocked and distressed after opening her eyes and realising she was having sex with Hepburn and not Clarke, who was asleep elsewhere in the flat.
Hepburn told a retrial that the woman made eye contact with him and then kissed him, instigating a consensual sexual encounter lasting around 20 minutes.
Bailing Hepburn following the verdicts, Judge Jim Tindal told him a jail sentence was ‘inevitable’.
He said: ‘You have been convicted and now fall to be sentenced.
Hepburn is pictured outside court today along with his girlfriend Lucy Street (shown second from right)
The cricketer (pictured with girlfriend Lucy Street) was pictured throughout the trial holding hands with his partner as he arrived at court
‘I am adjourning your case for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. But it would not be a kindness to you to leave you under any false impression as to the purpose of that report.
‘There is only one sentence that can properly be handed down in this case, and a custodial sentence is inevitable.
‘You need to prepare yourself and get matters in order and attend Hereford Crown Court on the 30th of April.’
The judge also said that his provisional view was that verdicts indicated that Hepburn’s belief in the woman’s consent had been unreasonable.
In a closing speech to the jury, prosecutor Miranda Moore QC suggested Hepburn’s desperation to ‘score’ in the WhatsApp game may have overtaken his good sense.
Ms Moore described WhatsApp messages sent by Hepburn – including one urging cricketers playing the ‘stat game’ to rate sexual partners out of ten – as ‘dehumanising’ of women.
The Crown’s barrister told the jury: ‘You have got to judge this case on the evidence. We say that the evidence is an indicator of the mindset – both hers and his.
‘On her side, the evidence shows that as soon as she realised who it was, she was upset, distressed, pushed him off, and wanted nothing more to do with him.’
Defence QC Michelle Heeley also addressed jurors, arguing that they could not possibly be sure Hepburn was guilty.
Ms Heeley, who said Hepburn was not proud of the ‘deeply unpleasant’ WhatsApp messages, said of the woman’s evidence: ‘I lost count of the number of times she said in answer to questions from me ‘I don’t remember’.’
Hepburn’s former teammate Joe Clarke (pictured) had consensual sex with the woman before passing out in the toilet
Mr Hepburn, pictured at court with girlfriend Lucy Street, admitted he was ashamed to be part of a ‘WhatsApp sexual conquest game’ with his friends
The retrial has heard the complainant initially told police she was unsure whether or not she had had sex with Clarke before the alleged rape by his best friend Hepburn.
During her closing address, Ms Heeley questioned why the woman had also ‘remembered’ details of sex with Clarke which she told a previous trial she could not recall.
‘She can’t get the details straight,’ Ms Heeley claimed. ‘She agrees her memory was hazy and affected by drink.’
The woman had also attempted to ‘row back’ during her evidence from her initial account to police that the sexual encounter with Hepburn lasted for around 20 minutes, Ms Heeley said.
Urging jurors to acquit Hepburn, the barrister added: ‘If it did go on for 20 minutes how could Mr Hepburn think this was anything other than consensual sex?
‘I suggest you cannot possibly be sure she was asleep. I suggest you cannot possibly be sure of guilt and the right verdicts in this case are not guilty.’
Jurors deliberated for around three-and-a-half hours yesterday and resumed their discussions this morning.
The all-rounder is pictured in action for Worcestershire County Cricket Club in August 2017
The girlfriend who stood by Alex Hepburn’s in the face of rape allegations
As Alex Hepburn faced allegations of rape at Worcester Crown Court, there was one stable presence by his side.
The former cricketer was pictured arriving each day with Lucy Street as he headed in to face trial.
Ms Street is currently studying graphic design at Nottingham Trent University in the East Midlands.
She and the sportsman have been pictured in loving embraces on her Facebook profile, which features holiday snaps of them lapping up the sun in a swimming pool.
The couple have been dating for at least 17 months and Ms Street was spotted dutifully supporting her boyfriend each day in this week’s court case.
Mr Hepburn is pictured with Lucy Street, who accompanied him daily at his trial as he faced allegations of rape
A holiday snap shows the couple enjoying a dip in the bool underneath the sun