An ex-Royal Marine has been cleared of raping a woman following a night out.
Declan Archer, formerly from Hythe but now living in Los Angeles, was accused of forcing himself on her after they returned from a pub to the same house in Folkestone.
But a jury took just under 10 hours to find him not guilty at Canterbury Crown Court today (February 8).
On hearing the verdict, Mr Archer, a former Harvey Grammar School pupil, gasped, made a prayer gesture with his hands and bowed towards the jurors from the dock.
The 33-year-old had maintained he and his accuser, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had consensual sex.
He added she had been "flirting" with him and "whispering in his ear" earlier in the evening.
Following his arrest in 2020, he told police he did not remember why he had later sent the woman "apologetic" messages.
Giving evidence last week (February 1), Mr Archer said at the time of the alleged rape in 2016 he was on sick leave from duty following an operation on his shoulder, and his arm was in a sling.
That night he had gone to the pub and drunk five or six beers, he told the jury.
Questioned by his lawyer John Barker about events back at the house, Mr Archer said he went to sleep and was woken up when the woman “got into bed with me”.
“I was under the covers – she got under the covers,” he said.
“There was a brief conversation. Her demeanour all evening was flirty – she was drunk, she was giggly.
“Then we started kissing and she removed my boxer shorts and we had brief intercourse.
“I was on my back, propped up due to my injury, and she was on top of me.”
The former commando said he started feeling guilty about being unfaithful to his partner and pushed the woman off.
“She fell off the bed and there was a yelp,” he said.
Mr Barker said: “She described you pinned her down with your one arm", to which Mr Archer replied: “I was absolutely not physically capable of that.”
Asked if he had sex with the complainant against her will, he said: “Absolutely not”.
During cross-examination by prosecutor Dominic Connolly, Mr Archer denied that the pain in his shoulder prevented him from pushing.
He maintained the woman had started kissing him on his lips and neck, he reciprocated, and then she initiated sex.
Asked why he had appeared "jittery" to a witness also in the house that night, the ex-marine replied: "I would say I was a bit panicky because of cheating with my long-term girlfriend."
He also denied he had told the same witness "I didn't do anything wrong."
At the start of his trial, the prosecutor told the jury others in the pub that evening could not recall the woman flirting with him.
One gave evidence to say she had also been heard to remark that Mr Archer was "not her type".
It was alleged the woman had gone to sleep wearing pyjamas but woke to find herself lying on her front, with no clothing on her bottom half.
She told police Mr Archer, who was 26 at the time, was on top of her and using one of his arms to pin her down while allegedly raping her.
The woman said that as she began to struggle, his grip on her shoulder became harder, but she then managed to get out from underneath him and left the bedroom.
She ran downstairs, grabbed a pair of trousers and her car keys and drove to a friend's house.
Mr Connolly told the court the "distraught" complainant spoke to several people about the alleged sex attack but did not feel "strong enough" at that time to report it to police.
Mr Archer, it was said, phoned her but she did not answer his calls and later blocked his number.
However, almost two years later she came face-to-face with him in a bar.
She told police he asked if they could talk and, when she refused, he said: "There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not sorry for what I have done to you.”
The matter was reported to police in 2020 after Mr Archer returned to the UK from travelling in the Far East and living for a time in Cambodia.
In a video-recorded interview played at the trial, officers asked the complainant why she had waited four years to report the alleged rape.
She replied: "I didn't think I was strong enough to go through it – through the process.
"If and when it went to court, to have people look at me differently or judge me or think I was lying about something and having to justify myself."
Messages sent by him to the woman included one which stated: "I'm sorry x", the court was told.
Another said: "It's a weight that's been lifted. I did already apologise."
Mr Archer told the jury the texts were unconnected to the incident and related to a separate personal issue between the pair.
He told police when interviewed how, having been invited to stay overnight, he later fell asleep on his own.
He claimed he was woken by her straddling him and that his boxer shorts had been removed.
Having pushed her off, she left the room. He then called a taxi and left the house.
When confronted by police about the messages, Mr Archer said he did not know what he was apologising for and maintained he had not raped her.
The prosecution alleged Mr Archer had "changed tack" since that police interview to say consensual sex had occurred.
In court, he explained how the woman had misheard him during the bar incident.
But he admitted he had lied to police regarding his initial account of events at the house that night.
At the end of the trial, Judge Alison Russell made an order that Mr Archer be reimbursed out of central funds for the costs incurred of having to travel from the US for his court appearances and paying for accommodation.
His 10-year military career began when he left school at 18. He served in Norway and Afghanistan and took part in the security operation for the London 2012 Olympics.
When his service eventually ended as a result of the complex shoulder injury he suffered while playing rugby for the marines, he became a property investor.
According to his social media profile, he is also involved in private security.