Residents in MP Nigel Evans’ Ribble Valley home village of Pendleton today expressed their delight at the news of his acquittal.
Landlady of Mr Evans’ local, The Swan with Two Necks, Christine Dilworth, told the Clitheroe Advertiser: “We’re delighted because justice has been done.
“We’ve known Nigel for many, many, years since he came to live in Pendleton, as a neighbour, friend, and MP. Throughout that time he has been the most kind and caring person, friendly and well respected, someone who has always joined in with whatever he could and has supported the village in lots of different ways. He has also been a very good MP for the Ribble Valley and a fantastic deputy speaker.
“It’s so sad his life has been turned upside down and he has gone through the hell he has done for the past year.
“He’s a strong character, but can only take so much. We have seen him at his lowest during the past year.”
She added that the former deputy speaker of the House of Commons had been shown “fantastic support” throughout the Ribble Valley and Pendleton since the allegations were made.
Christine and Steve Dilworth have run the Swan With Two Necks at Pendleton for the past 27 years and have known Mr Evans since he moved to the village 15 years ago.
Mr Evans congratulated the Dilworths in the House of Commons with an Early Day Motion after they were judged by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, as the Britain’s best pub, earlier this year.
Mr Evans said: “It really is a fantastic pub and I am incredibly lucky to live right next door.”
Christine last saw Mr Evans at around 9-15 am this morning before he set off to Preston Crown Court.
“I gave him a hug and wished him well like I always do,” she said.
“He is a very big part of the community here. He loves to come home to the Ribble Valley and relax.
“We’re delighted that his name has been cleared and we hope that he can carry on and try to begin to rebuild his life and career.”
Just prior to picking up the phone to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times Christine said she had already seen villagers posting cards and messages of support through Mr Evan’s letter box.
Villagers had also been calling and texting the pub landlady to express their delight at the news.
“We just cannot wait for him to come back and to give him a big hug,” Christine added.
She then spoke of the lasting consequences the allegations will have on Mr Evans’ life.
“He could’ve been the speaker and may have been given a knighthood, but that has all been taken away from him,” she said adding that the law regarding giving anonymity to those charged with rape and other sexual offences needed to be reviewed.
“Maybe if something good can come out of this,” Christine added.
Mr Evans has been cleared of a string of sex abuse charges, including one of rape. The rape claim was one of several allegations made by seven men during a five-week trial at Preston Crown Court.
The former Conservative MP was said to have used his political influence to take advantage of his alleged victims, but the defence pointed out inconsistencies in various witness accounts.
The jury unanimously found Mr Evans not guilty of one count of rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted sexual assault and two indecent assaults.
The 56-year-old Ribble Valley MP burst into tears as the verdicts were announced.