Paul Gascoigne has said his sexual assault trial was ‘the hardest thing I’ve been through’ and a ‘year from hell’ in an emotional interview after being cleared of all charges.
The 52-year-old was cleared of sexual assault, and of the lesser, alternative count of assault by beating on Thursday, after a four-day trial at Teesside Crown Court.
The former England star claimed he was scared of being seen as ‘worse than Jeffrey Epstein’, the disgraced American financier who was found dead in his New York prison cell on August 9.
‘Gazza’, 52, revealed he cried when he thought about being banned from seeing younger members of his family and would go on exercise binges at night to stop him from drinking.
The 52-year-old former footballer (left, leaving court on Thursday and right with manager Katie Davies) was charged with sexual assault after he forcefully kissed a woman on a train travelling through County Durham.
Speaking out following the trial, he said he was scared of being seen as ‘worse than Jeffrey Epstein’, the disgraced American financier who was found dead in his New York prison cell on August 9 (Gascoigne is pictured leaving court)
The former England star (pictured with his agent Katie Davies) claimed he was scared of being seen as ‘worse than Jeffrey Epstein’, the disgraced American financier who was found dead in his New York prison cell on August 9
But he has restated that he only kissed the woman on a train in County Durham due to her being mocked for her weight.
Speaking in a Bournemouth hotel near his home in Poole, Gascoigne told the Sunday Mirror he had been sticking up for her, adding: ‘I gave the girl a peck. I didn’t mean anything sexual, I just heard what was said to her and wanted to help. If it was anyone else this would never have gone to court. I accept I’m not liked by everyone.’
He continued: ‘The last year has been a nightmare and I’ve worked hard to stay sober, in the last 6 months I’ve not touched a drop.’
He added: ‘I’ve been in trouble but nothing like this. I worried people would stop me going down the high street and shout abuse at me, or stop me from being around their kids.’
The former Tottenham midfielder was accused of forcefully and sloppily kissing a stranger while he was drunk on a York to Durham train in August 2018.
He revealed he cried when he thought about being banned from seeing younger members of his family and would go on exercise binges at night to stop him from drinking (pictured alongside manager Katie Davies)
Gascoigne (pictured outside court) has restated that he only kissed the woman on a train in County Durham due to her being mocked for her weight
Teesside Crown Court has heard the woman was on a York to Newcastle train on August 20, 2018, when Gascoigne, who she said was loud and swearing, sat down next to her, tapped her on the arm, grabbed her by the cheeks and planted a sloppy kiss on her lips.
He denied the charge, saying the kiss was not sexual and that he kissed the stranger to boost her confidence after he heard someone call her fat.
‘Gazza’ claimed that after he was arrested at his £149-a-night hotel in Newcastle police spoke to him about his career and asked him for selfies, which was denied by the British Transport Police.
He was cleared at Teeside Crown Court on Thursday and was also found not guilty of the less serious charge of common assault.
Gascoigne said he feared being on the sexual offenders register and being compared to billionaire paedophile Epstein, who died while of trial for trafficking girls for sex.
Gascoigne said he feared being on the sexual offenders register and being compared to billionaire paedophile Epstein (pictured), who died while of trial for trafficking girls for sex
He told how the seriousness of it hit him six weeks before the trial and he ‘just started crying’, adding that he feared about not being able to be around children.
In a desperate bid to avoid returning to drinking, Gascoigne also took to ‘all night sit-ups and squats or on the bike’ to keep his head clear.
In his closing speech of the trial, prosecutor William Mousley QC insisted Gascoigne had repeatedly lied about what happened, and that someone had abused the woman.
After she was kissed, the woman, who cannot be named, was shocked and a fellow passenger challenged Gascoigne, saying: ‘What you have just done is sexual abuse.’
Police later traced Gascoigne to the hotel in Jesmond, Newcastle, and when an officer spoke to him on the phone, prior to arrest, the footballer said: ‘I know what it’s about, I kissed a fat lass.’
When he gave evidence, Gascoigne said he was trying to reassure his alleged victim after he claimed to have overheard someone say of her: ‘You don’t want a photo with her, she’s fat and ugly.’
He spoke of his own battle with his weight, struggles with bulimia and bullying suffered by family members.
Paul Gascoigne leaves Teesside Crown Court in Middlesbrough with his manager Katie Davies on Thursday
In a statement read outside court by his solicitor Imogen Cox, Gascoigne said it had been ‘tough’ having the allegation hanging over him for a year
Gascoigne said that he came and sat next to the woman, telling her ‘take no notice of what they say’ and ‘listen, you’re not fat and ugly’.
He denied being drunk at the time, telling the jury he had undergone an operation in Australia to have pellets implanted in his stomach which would make him ‘spew up’ if he drank spirits.
The defence showed the jury pictures of Gascoigne kissing and being kissed by other people, including former footballers Steve Bull, Ian Wright, Ally McCoist and Wayne Rooney, as well Diana, Princess of Wales.
The court heard character references from former boxers Ricky Hatton and Jane Couch, his alcohol therapist and his former agent Mel Stein, which spoke of Gascoigne frequently kissing people.
Mr Stein’s statement recounted a time when Gascoigne kissed and hugged a rabbi’s wife, but the potentially offensive moment was quickly forgiven due to the player’s apology.
Jurors were shown photos of Gascoigne kissing celebrities, including Princess Diana in 1990, in an attempt to back up his claim that he often kissed people
Left, Gascoigne kissing Danny Baker and right, Gascoigne kissing Wayne Rooney
The incident happened on a York to Newcastle train at Darlington (pictured in file photo)
When he was cleared, the former England player said he was ‘looking forward to getting on with my life’.
Outside court, he smiled and stood beside his solicitor Imogen Cox as she read a statement on his behalf, saying: ‘To have a sexual allegation for over 12 months has been tough.
‘I am so glad I was finally able to put over my side of the story and that the jury came to the correct verdict.’
Michelle Heeley QC, defending, had argued that when Gascoigne kissed the stranger, there was no sexual intent.
She said the former player kissed a woman who was not expecting it and did not like it, but that did not make him a sex offender.
She said the kiss lasted two or three seconds, on a packed train, and was not preceded by any ‘lecherous comment’, touching or groping.