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Earl's son cleared of raping 16-year-old girl


An aristocrat was today cleared of raping a 16-year-old girl.

The Hon James Murray, 42, the son of the Earl of Mansfield, said he had a consensual sexual relationship with the girl, who is now 17.

A jury at Oxford Crown Court, who heard prosecution claims that Old Etonian Murray carried out the rape in June 2010 after getting the girl drunk on vodka, took just under an hour to clear him.

Murray told the jury of seven men and five women that he had sexual relations with the teenager at his flat in Oxford over several days in June 2010, but had "deep feelings of unease" about the situation.

He had full sex with her three times and once performed a sex act on her, he said.

Murray said the alleged victim was a foster child and had "installed herself" in the flat after becoming friends and helping Murray identify who had stolen bicycles from his block of flats.

The court heard that the girl was one of a group of teenage friends who used to visit Murray's home to drink, smoke, play on his laptop and listen to music.

Murray acknowledged that he was like a "taxi service", ferrying the girl and her friends around.

The Crown said the IT specialist raped the teenager in the early hours of June 26 2010 after watching a film at his flat.

It was claimed that she woke up that morning with him naked next to her.

Murray told the court that the first sexual encounter happened when the girl was staying in his spare room.

"I felt she was expecting me to initiate sex with her so I did," he said.

"She said 'OK, I can do that'."

Asked if she was enthusiastic, he said: "No, not really. But ... she did say 'don't expect anything'."

He said that a condom he used on the night of the alleged rape had broken and the next morning he suggested the girl take a morning-after pill.

He said the girl's friends arrived and the mood became "aggressive and confrontational" and they were asking if he had "done something" to her.

The group left and Murray was not allowed to speak to the girl, but he phoned and texted her that afternoon, apologising 21 times.

In court he said he did not know what he was apologising for.

The jury heard that there were three condoms in a rubbish bin at the flat, at different layers of it.

The defence argued that that fundamentally undermined the prosecution case, but the prosecution said it was not inconsistent with its case.

Murray's solicitor Michael Geeson read a statement on behalf of the aristocrat, which said: "He would like to thank the jury for their consideration of the evidence, and their verdict today.

"He would also like to thank his legal team, particularly Nicholas Syfret QC, who so ably presented his case.

"He says this has been the most difficult 18 months for himself, but more particularly for his family, who had to endure the brunt of the uncertainty, detail of the allegations, and the obvious interest in the case.

"He will always be grateful to them for their unstinting support throughout, but particularly since his initial arrest in June 2010 and the moment he was charged in April 2011.

"If it is possible, he would wish to move forward with his life and to put this difficult time behind him."

Murray smiled happily as he appeared to receive congratulations on his phone, then held the door open for relatives and members of the press as he made his way outside to be photographed before stepping into the back of a taxi to be driven away from the court.