Players will not face charges over rape claim

Two Premiership footballers accused of gang-raping a teenage girl at a central London hotel will not be charged, it was announced last night.

The decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) follows an investigation by Scotland Yard detectives into claims by the 17-year-old girl that she was sexually assaulted by a group of men at the hotel.

Titus Bramble, 22, a Newcastle United defender, and Carlton Cole, 19, a Chelsea striker who is on loan to Charlton Athletic, were questioned by the police. Jason Edwards, 26, and his friend, Nicholas Meikle, 29, a party organiser who claims that he and others had consensual sex with the girl, were also interviewed.

Claire Ward, a CPS lawyer who specialises in rape prosecutions, said: "We have now carefully reviewed all the evidence in the case in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors and have concluded that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against any of the four suspects for any offence."

A police source said that the case boiled down to the issue of consent: the teenager's word against that of the football players.

The alleged attack was said to have taken place on 27 September last year in room 316 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, central London. The girl claims she consented to having sex with one man, but that seven other footballers came into the room and sexually assaulted her.

Graham Shear, a lawyer for the footballers, said in a statement last night: "My clients have always categorically denied these allegations and this significant announcement marks the closure of an exhaustive four-month police investigation and demonstrates that my clients have not committed any crime whatsoever."