A BOXER has been cleared of grooming a 14-year-old girl on Facebook for sex.
Andrew Ross, 29, of Gladstone Street, Roker, refused to appear in the dock as the jury delivered their verdict at Newcastle Crown Court because he could not face hearing the outcome.
Ross denied one charge of meeting a child following sexual grooming and two of sexual activity with a child.
And after four hours and 18 minutes of deliberating, the jury returned a majority not guilty verdict on all three charges.
But despite being cleared of the allegations, Ross was told he would be remanded in custody after he failed to turn up part way through the trial last Thursday.
He will be sentenced for breach of bail at a later date.
During the trial, Ross had admitted to having a six-week relationship with the girl – who cannot be named for legal reasons – but claimed he thought she was 16.
The court heard Ross befriended the girl on the social networking website before meeting up at McDonald’s after she finished school.
It was alleged the defendant questioned her about her age, despite having sex on two previous occasions.
Prosecutors claimed Ross knew the girl’s age from the outset and after having sex had told the schoolgirl to tell her parents that they “had only kissed” as that was “not against the law”.
But throughout the trial Ross maintained that he would not knowingly date a 14-year-old.
He said the girl told him she was 16 and her profile on Facebook said she was 18.
He said: “She didn’t tell me she was 14, otherwise I wouldn’t have met her.
“Of course I wouldn’t have started a relationship with her if I’d known.
“I definitely wouldn’t have anything to do with a 14-year-old schoolkid.”
He told jurors he grew to “love” the teenager and that it was the day after he slept with her for the second time he found out her true age.
Jurors heard the teenager’s older sister had found out about their relationship and sent Ross a message on Facebook saying “I hear you are seeing my little sister who is only 14”.
Ross said he got the message the same day as other people started contacting him about the relationship.
He said did not see the teenager again after that and denied he told the girl he was only 19, insisting his age was shown on his Facebook profile as well as in stories about his sporting efforts in the local press, which he had shown to her.