A JURY has found John O’Connell not guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl in Rochester in 1967.
The jury took just a few hours to reach its verdict on Tuesday afternoon, in a case brought to trial after the man conceived from the sexual encounter urged his mother to contact police 33 years later.
Speaking outside of the Bendigo County Court, O’Connell, 69, said it was pleasing to have the matter put behind him.
“I’m very pleased with the verdict, I’m pleased it’s over, it’s been a long 19 months,” he said.
“I can get on with my life.”
O’Connell refused to answer further questions and left the court surrounded by family.
The trial endured a stuttering start, with the first jury discharged after a clerical error in October.
It was then delayed almost three months from December with concerns a Herald Sun article could have prejudiced the case.
When it eventually came to trial from the end of February, a jury was discharged after failing to reach a unanimous or majority verdict.
The not guilty verdict was delivered on the fourth attempt at trial.
The case centered on consent. DNA evidence had proven O’Connell and the complainant were the parents of the man born from the encounter.
The prosecution alleged O’Connell, aged 20 at the time, had dragged the 16-year-old girl from a car near Rochester and raped her in bush land.
But the jury could not be convinced a rape had occurred.
A 12-year-old girl in the car at the time of the incident gave evidence at the trial. She had no recollection of the night.
A friend of the complainant also gave evidence, and told the jury that the complainant had pointed out O’Connell three months later as the man who she alleged had raped her.
The son tracked down his mother in 2000 and an investigation started in 2013.