A former pub landlord falsely accused of three rapes against two girls when he was a teenager spent 23 months of torment before a jury threw out the 33-year-old allegations.
Father-of-two Andrew Hirst, 53, was arrested twice over events when he was a teenager – insisting he was the victim of misidentification and a follow- up malicious complaint.
At first he was accused of raping an underage girl in a car near South Shore Holiday Village. He was then accused of raping another girl near Joyland Amusements in 1983.
Mr Hirst of Burstall Walk, Bridlington, told police he had no idea who the first girl was and the second complaint was absurd. The Crown Prosecution Service went ahead with a five-day trial at Hull Crown Court insisting the alleged victims did not know each other.
However, it emerged in court the girls were Facebook friends, and one had looked after the others child at a crèche.
The judge Mark Gargan told the jury they had to consider whether or not the rapes were fantasies or Mr Hirst was right in saying the first girl had picked the wrong man.
Mr Hirst, wept in court as the jury announced he was not guilty of three charges of rape and one charge of indecent assault.
He puffed out his cheeks and said: “Thank you!” to the jury as he walked free into the arms of his wife who has stood by him.
Outside court he said: “It’s been horrible. I just cannot understand why they did it in the first place.
“It’s been nearly two years and it’s frightening. I accept something may have happened to the girl – but it was not me.
“He could still be out there.”
In court a name was given of the man who shared his same first name and last initial and details at the time of the alleged rape.
Mr Hirst, a married father-of-two, told the jury the girl could have got the wrong man – and did not dispute she was raped.
The second girl claimed she was raped and indecently assaulted by Hirst, but could not be precise on the dates.
Mr Hirst’s defence barrister, Paul Genney, said a girl would remember the day she was raped and it was absurd to think he could have raped her at wasteland near Joyland Amusements without anyone seeing.