A professional footballer who was accused of smashing a bottle of Jack Daniels whisky over the head of a bouncer at a nightclub on Christmas morning in 2015 today walked free from court.
Swindon midfielder Rohan Ince, on loan from Championship promotion favourites Brighton, was charged with one count of causing grieves bodily harm with intent after doorman Gregor Jurcic was left requiring staples to his head. He was also acquitted of a second alternative count of causing grievous bodily harm.
Speaking on behalf of Ince, 24, his solicitor Steven Barker said: 'He's glad the ordeal is over. His life has been on hold for 14 months. He thanks the jury for a swift unanimous verdict.
Rohan Ince outside of Reading Crown Court after he was found not guilty by jurors
'He thanks his club for the support they have given him.'
Mr Barker said the footballer also thanked his legal team and family, adding: 'He's looking forward to getting his career back on track.'
Brighton boss Chris Hughton today arrived at Reading Crown Court as the jury were addressed by Judge Paul Dugdale before retiring.
Mr Hughton sat in the public gallery for around two hours before leaving court and sat next to Mr Ince's mother.
The former Newcastle and Norwich manager is on course to take his current side Brighton into the Premier League. They sit in second place just one point behind league leaders Newcastle United.
Ince had been out drinking at Atik nightclub in Windsor with his brother Brook when several violent incidents unfolded at around 4am on Christmas Day.
Ince playing for Brighton and Hove Albion during an FA Cup match against Hull City last month
Mr Jurcic, aged 27 years, felt a blow to his head from behind but was unable to see his attacker. Mr Ince, formerly of Chelsea, claims he only learned of the bottling incident when police pounced on him following a separate incident.
During a 44-minute interview with police within just 10 hours of his arrest he said his brother had become involved in a fight and suffered a broken jaw. Mr Ince stepped in to break up the brawl and later stumbled over some railings when police pounced on him.
The player maintained that it was not him who was involved in the bloody episode and was today acquitted by a jury at Reading Crown Court.
Defending the League One star during his trial, Brian O'Neill said prosecutors in the case relied mainly on unreliable evidence from Mr Jurcic's colleague Michael Zgorzalek.
Championship footballer: Rohan Ince (r), who is pictured at Reading Crown Court, has been cleared of battering a nightclub bouncer. Brighton boss Chris Hughton (l) joined him in court
Mr Zgorzalek told the court he saw the attacker wearing Converse and that he was in his eye sight at all times during the ordeal.
Mr O'Neill said: 'Mr Zgorzalek said the assailant's face was spotty like he suffered quite badly from acne and also said the male was wearing black converse trainers.'
He then told the jury Mr Ince had in fact been wearing black suede boots bought from River Island.
Mr O'Neill said: 'That footwear taken from Rohan Ince at the police station following his arrest has been in possession of police ever since.
'Plainly they are not Converse trainers. The person who Mr Zgorzalek purported to describe in such fine detail, with such confidence, is not Rohan Ince.
Mr Ince, from Ashford, Kent, gave a 44-minute police interview within 10 hours of his arrest and cooperated with police in a 'polite' and 'reasonable' manner.
He gave a second interview six months later. Mr O'Neill added: 'What more could he have said in this room. His case is 'it wasn't me'.
Ince (left) goes for the ball during another match for Brighton against Hull in February 2014
'He has already said that in the course of two interview lasting 89 minutes.. There is no need for him to say it again.'
Earlier, jurors were told Mr Jurcic's blood was found on a distinctive green bomber jacket Ince was wearing that night.
But in evidence read to the court, forensic expert Helen Davies cast doubt on whether the stain was caused during the attack or afterwards.
In a statement, she said: 'In my opinion I would not expect a transfer of Gregor Jurcic's blood on to Rohan Ince's jacket as a result of hitting Mr Jurcic over the head with a bottle from behind, as alleged.'
Instead it could have got there when Mr Jurcic, by then bleeding heavily, approached Ince as he was being restrained on the ground by a police officer and another doorman.
Ms Davies said: 'In my opinion, although I would not expect a transfer of Gregor Jurcic's blood on to Rohan Ince's jacket as a result of the original incident, a transfer of blood is within my expectations given that Gregor Jurcic returned to Rohan Ince while he was bleeding heavily.
'In my opinion the findings in relation to the blood pattern do not assist in addressing the issue of whether or not Rohan Ince was involved in assaulting Gregor Jurcic.'
Neither Ince nor his brother, with whom he was out on the night in question, were called to give evidence.
But in police interviews played and read to the court, Ince said he was 'gobsmacked' at being arrested.
He told officers after leaving the club some time after 3am he went to help his brother, who was being repeatedly punched by another man during a confrontation in the street nearby.
Ince was arrested and taken to Maidenhead Police Station after the incident in 2015 but has subsequently been cleared
After punching his brother's assailant Ince said he himself was attacked, and after the fracas escalated near the club, he tripped while running away and was then 'mounted' by a police officer and a doorman.
Ince, of Ashford, Middlesex, said in an interview: 'I didn't touch a bottle in that whole period of time, let alone attack someone. I think they misidentified me.'
He said he was mistakenly identified by another bouncer simply because he was tall and wearing a green jacket, and so stood out.
He said: 'I can't stress enough how I did not attack a bouncer.
'I would never feel a reason to bottle anyone anywhere, let alone a bouncer who is trying to protect everyone.'
The court also heard no fingerprints were found on the fragments of a Jack Daniel's bottle recovered at the scene.
And 'potentially very significant' CCTV footage that was likely to have been captured by a nearby camera was never available as police 'dropped a clanger' in failing to access it before it was erased, the court heard.