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Jury in Alex Hepburn rape trial discharged after failing to reach verdict

11:19 AM ETESPNcricinfo staffFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

The jury in the trial of Alex Hepburn, the former Worcestershire cricketer who was accused of raping a sleeping woman, has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

The case at Worcester Crown Court was adjourned on Friday afternoon, the fifth day of the trial, after the 12-person jury failed to reach a majority verdict following more than nine hours of deliberation.

Hepburn, 23, now faces the prospect of a retrial after pleading not guilty to two counts of rape, following his initial arrest in April 2017.

In the course of the trial it was claimed that the alleged victim, who cannot be named, had awoken during the attack, having initially assumed Hepburn to be Joe Clarke, his Worcestershire team-mate, with whom she had had consensual sex earlier in the night.

Hepburn, who was born in Western Australia and moved to England in 2013 to pursue his cricket career, told the court that he had previously arranged to sleep in his friend’s room, and did not see the woman until he was in bed beside her.

The case brought to light what was described in court as a “sexual conquest game” on the social media app WhatsApp, involving a number of Worcestershire’s players, including Hepburn and Clarke.

Miranda Moore QC, for the prosecution, alleged that Hepburn had been “fired up” by his desire to win the competition, having posted the rules of the game to the WhatsApp group five days before the alleged attack.

Hepburn, giving evidence, had claimed the WhatsApp group was “meant to be nothing more than immature chat between a group of friends”, adding that he was embarrassed that his family had had to see the comments that he had made.

The Crown Prosecution Service will now discuss the prospect of a retrial with the lawyers and the judge, Jim Tindal, with a decision due in 14 days’ time.

It is also understood that the ECB, the PCA and Worcestershire CCC are paying close attention to the case, with the behaviour of the club’s players likely to come under scrutiny from the Cricket Discipline Commission, irrespective of the verdict.