Midweek Sport - - NEWS -

A YOUNG Eng­land rugby union player has been cleared of rap­ing a woman he met on the dat­ing app Tin­der.

New­cas­tle Fal­cons winger Zach Kibirige, 21, said the hour-long sex­ual en­counter he had with the woman at her home in Novem­ber was con­sen­sual.

On the fourth day of his trial, a jury at New­cas­tle Crown Court cleared him of four counts of rape, at­tempted rape, sex­ual as­sault and as­sault by pen­e­tra­tion.

Kibirige, who gained top grades at A-level and is study­ing for a psy­chol­ogy de­gree along­side his rugby ca­reer, was ac­cused of rap­ing the woman when they met for the first time.

The pair had swapped al­most 1,000 What­sApp mes­sages be­fore he went round for “cud­dles” and to watch a film.

He told the court that they be­gan kiss­ing pas­sion­ately on her bed and he claimed she said at one point: “You are go­ing to have to try harder than that.”

They grabbed each other as they kissed, be­fore hav­ing sex in a num­ber of po­si­tions, he told the jury.

The com­plainant, who can­not be iden­ti­fied, claimed Kibirige put his hands round her neck and she was too scared to shout for help.

Giv­ing ev­i­dence from the wit­ness box, the player de­nied throt­tling the woman.

Kibirige said af­ter sex he left as he had to get to sleep be­cause he had train­ing the next­day. IN­NO­CENT: Kibirige

“I don’t think she was best pleased,” he told the jury. “She said ‘Are you not go­ing to stay and cud­dle and watch the end of the film?’”

That night he re­ceived a mes­sage from one of the com­plainant’s friends ac­cus­ing him of rape.

When asked if he thought he’d done any­thing wrong, he replied: “Ab­so­lutely not.”

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