Former Today boss Eddy Shah cleared of schoolgirl rape

Eddie Shah spoke outside court after the verdict

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Former UK newspaper boss Eddy Shah has been found not guilty of raping a schoolgirl.

Mr Shah, 69, who founded the Today newspaper, denied six counts of rape. He had told the Old Bailey he had "never touched" the teenage girl.

Former escort Susan Davies, 53, of Swanley, Kent, was cleared of aiding and abetting rape, indecent assault and cruelty to a person under 16.

Anthony Pallant, 53, of West Malling, Kent, was cleared of raping the girl.

The jury cleared Mr Shah, of Chippenham, Wiltshire, after almost 18 hours of deliberations.

'Cheap policing'

Ms Davies was cleared of forcing the complainant, now in her early 30s, to have threesomes with her and Mr Shah.

As the verdicts were read out, Mr Shah said "thank you" to the jury and appeared to fight back tears.

His wife, Jennifer White Shah, was present in court and wept after hearing that her husband had been cleared.

Eddy Shah

• Born in 1944 in Cambridge, Mr Shah was then educated in Scotland

• Launched Today newspaper in 1986

• Took on the trade unions where he faced up to 10,000 pickets a night for more than seven months

• Sold his newspaper empire in 1988 and set up an independent TV company

• Became an author, writing four novels, and then owned and ran Wiltshire Golf Country Club and Hotel

Speaking outside court Mr Shah, whose birth name is Selim Shah, said the case had been brought because of "cheap policing and cheap prosecution".

He called for a review of how rape cases are dealt with by police, saying: "Anybody walking down the street can point at a celebrity and say, 'He raped me'.

"I was brought to trial with no real evidence at all - all they had was the word of a girl and nothing was actually backed up.

"Having been through what I have just been through, I think they should look at what happens.

"They look at it subjectively, not objectively - they just take it to trial and I think that is very wrong, there should be some evidence."

Blackmail fear

The trial previously heard Mr Shah paid for sex with co-defendant Ms Davies, who was accused of procuring the girl.

Susan Davies Former escort Susan Davies, 53, was cleared of all charges

The offences were alleged to have happened when the girl was between the ages of 12 and 15.

Mr Shah maintained he met the girl twice in hotels while she was accompanied by Ms Davies but never had sex with her.

The jury heard Ms Davies describe how she had a relationship with Mr Shah for several years, but claimed that it never felt like she was working as a prostitute.

Mr Shah would pay her between £100 and £200 for sex and bought her gifts such as a Pierre Cardin watch, the court heard.

Ms Davies said Mr Shah was a "gentleman" and she had taken the girl twice to meet him because she thought he could have a positive influence on her life by talking to her.

"With hindsight it was a stupid decision," she said.

The businessman had said his biggest concern when the allegations came to light was having to admit to his wife he had used a prostitute.

He told the court: "I always thought it was a case of blackmail or something."

Ms Davies had a relationship with Mr Pallant, a medical equipment entrepreneur with whom she had a son, the court heard

Businessman Mr Pallant was also cleared of indecent assault.

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