EMOTIONS ran high as I’m a Celebrity star Aggro Santos and Tyrelle Ritchie were found not guilty of rape.
The two friends stepped down and gave heartfelt hugs to their defence lawyers after the verdict was delivered, acquitting them of all charges on Friday (May 3).
Outside Chichester Crown Court the pair’s families shared hugs, with Mr Santos tearfully hugging his mother.
Brazilian-born rapper Santos, 24, who appeared under his real name Yuri Santos, was accused of two counts of rape.
Santos was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at The Ship Hotel, Chichester, in May 2011 after performing as a guest of honour at the University of Chichester’s summer ball. The accuser had told organisers, as well as Mr Santos and those accompanying her, she was 19. His friend, Mr Ritchie, was also cleared of oral rape as part of the same Chichester incident.
Santos was also accused of raping a woman in her twenties in his hotel room in Yeovil in September 2010 after performing at the Soho club there.
The jury reached a unanimous verdict in less than three hours following the seven-day trial last week at Chichester Crown Court.
Speaking after the verdict was announced, lawyer Phil Smith said of Santos: “My client is obviously delighted that the jury promptly have reached the right verdict.
“He now wishes to get on with his life, which has been on hold for two years.”
During questioning by Chichester police, Mr Santos strenuously denied being a rapist, insisting: “I would never do something like that, it goes against everything I have been brought up with, my morals, my pride.”
Mr Santos explained his reaction after being confronted by the accuser’s sister in Chichester.
In a witness statement taken by police, he said: “It was a shock to me as much as it was to anyone.
“I felt confused. It’s a really big card to pull on someone to say they have raped you.”
Kimberley Harrow, duty manager at The Ship Hotel, maintained both Mr Santos and Mr Ritchie looked ‘incredibly confused’ when the allegations were made.
Mrs Harrow said the sister of the accused had said: “‘Aggro Santos? What kind of name is that anyway?’ and she shouted that she would ruin them.”
Mr Santos’ defence lawyer, Ronald Jaffa, suggested the Yeovil accuser came forward to jump on the ‘bandwagon’ only for financial gain following publicity from the Chichester case.
“It’s not a coincidence that she went to the police. She made her complaint after reading what she read and she jumped on the bandwagon.
“She wanted to sell a story; it was an opportunity to make some money.”
Mr Jaffa said one witness account of the Yeovil events was ‘flatly contradicted’ by another witness, who said ‘nothing sexual happened at all’.
The use of Mr Santos’ laptop was key, with the defence insisting a Facebook friend request was made after the second act of consensual sex between Mr Santos and the accuser – which the prosecution argued occurred after the first act of consensual sex but before the accused rape.
“A friend request was definitely sent,” said Mr Santos.
In Chichester, Mr Santos insisted he saw the accuser outside the hotel after the allegation was made, maintaining ‘she said she was fine and wanted to go home’.
But the prosecution argued this was ‘rubbish’ and never happened.
When giving evidence, the accuser said she had seen her sister downstairs in the hotel after Mr Santos and Mr Ritchie forced her to have sex with them.
“She said ‘I told my sister nothing’, and her sister just guessed,” said Mr Ritchie’s defence lawyer Richard Furlong.
The court heard a rampage followed, with the sister described by Santos as being ‘possessed’, screaming up the stairs he had raped her sister.
“Her sister just guessed. When the whole thing kicked off and she was running up the stairs screaming and shouting, she did this on the back of what she said was a guess,” Mr Furlong said.
He added: “Consent is consent is consent. Even if it is accompanied by almost immediate remorse and regret for what has happened.”
Mr Santos was described as a ‘role model’ by a former head teacher, and as ‘holding the family together’ by his mother.