Woman alleges rape at Man Utd Christmas party

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The Independent Online

A 19-year-old man was arrested last night on suspicion of rape after a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at a hotel in which Manchester United Football Club were holding their Christmas party.

The man was taken into custody by officers from Greater Manchester police late last night following the allegation, which was made in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The incident is alleged to have happened at the Great John Street Hotel in Manchester city centre. Police attended the hotel after the 26-year-old woman made a 999 call shortly after 4am.

The woman was examined at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, before being interviewed by officers. A police spokeswoman said: "A 19-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of rape after presenting himself to police. He remains in custody for questioning."

Police sources said the teenager came forward only after being contacted by police and expressing reluctance over being arrested at home.

The party was attended by the entire Manchester United first team with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at an awards ceremony in Zurich and several reserve team players.

The 395-a-night hotel was closed yesterday. Staff at the hotel declined to comment on the alleged incident further than to confirm that they had hosted a party and were helping police with investigations.

Manchester United officials said the club would be making no comment.

The alleged incident came at the end of a marathon Christmas party, organised by the Manchester United club captain, Gary Neville, which started at lunchtime on Monday.

According to the Manchester Evening News, the Premiership champions started their celebrations at the city's Manchester 235 Casino where they enjoyed a meal before being joined by two drag queens and five burlesque dancers.

From there they moved on to a nearby pub, The Old Grapes, owned by the Coronation Street star Liz Dawn, before ending their night at the Great John Street Hotel.

Several allegations of rape have been made against professional football players in recent years.

In October 2005, Cristiano Ronaldo was arrested by police in connection with an alleged rape after a woman claimed she was attacked in a central London hotel. He was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

And in June of the same year, Arsenal's Dutch striker, Robin van Persie, was held in jail in Rotterdam after being accused of rape. He was released without charge and maintains his innocence.

In September 2004, two unnamed Premiership players were interviewed over an alleged gang rape at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London, but the police decided there was insufficient evidence to charge them.

Also in 2004, three Leicester City players faced allegations of sexually assaulting three women in a hotel in Spain. They were released after spending six nights in jail. All charges against them were dropped.