Appeal court frees McDonald's workers jailed for plotting rape

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The court of Appeal has freed three McDonald's restaurant workers who had been jailed for plotting to rape a Cambridge University student.

The woman was said to be "overwhelmed with anger" after three judges ruled yesterday that the convictions of Anthony Ugoh, 21, Andrew Udenze, 23, and Sayek Miah, 24, were unsafe. They were convicted of conspiring to rape the student after a high-profile trial in December last year.

The jury was told two of the men had some sort of sexual contact with her. They were told the woman, who was studying for a master's degree in linguistics, got into the men's car as she walked around central London having drunk so much while celebrating her 23rd birthday that she could not remember what happened afterwards.

She was then driven to a garage, where they bought condoms, and to a sidestreet at Tower Bridge, where the alleged attack happened.

Mr Udenze, of Tottenham, north London, and Mr Miah, of Camberwell, south London, were jailed for 18 months and Mr Ugoh, of Leyton, east London, was sentenced to nine months after a 12-day trial. However, the judges ruled yesterday that there was a flaw in the trial judge's summing up and "wider than appropriate" expert evidence had been heard by the jury. Lawyers for the Crown said there would be no retrial.

Lord Justice Mance said the alleged victim had seen a friend home on to a train earlier after drinking and dining in Soho and dancing in a nightclub. The woman then thought she had missed the last train to Cambridge and returned to the Limelight club in the West End of London.

She had drunk so much that she had a black-out and said her first recollection was of being in the back of a car when police approached at about 3am. An alert officer noticed the car's steamed up windows and saw the woman looking "terrified" inside.

She was dishevelled, with her skirt around her waist and her tights pulled down and sandwiched in the back seat between a group of men. When police asked if she was all right, she replied: "I think so. I don't know. Are these men dodgy?"

The student had told the jury she had not consented to sex, even though she could not remember the events of that night.

The woman had an alcohol problem, sometimes drinking two bottles of wine a day, which could lead to blackouts. She was said to be two and a half times over the blood alcohol driving limit. She had told the jury: "Drinking made me take less regard for my own safety. Now I would never take the risk of staying out all night on my own. I am shocked by what happened to me."

On the night of the alleged attack she weighed only seven and a half stone because she was suffering from bulimia. The men had been accused of squabbling over who would take their turn next having sex with the woman as she lapsed in and out of consciousness.

At the trial, Mr Udenze said: "I don't know if she said yes but we were still kissing and cuddling so she gave me the impression that she consented."

After the men were convicted, they were allowed to spend Christmas with their families, sparking controversy among victim support groups.

Lord Justice Mance said he had reservations about an expert's evidence that her inability to give informed consent to sex would have been "evident" to anybody who was with her.