A former rowing coach at Chester’s The King’s School has been cleared of allegations of sexually abusing a teenage girl.
Matthew Hackett, who has coached rowers to Olympic success, was found not guilty by a jury of the five charges of sexual assault he faced following almost six hours deliberations on Tuesday (February 20).
The 54-year-old, who had left the Chester school years before the alleged offences, had denied that he had touched her sexually at all and told Liverpool Crown Court, ‘I can almost say I treated her like I would treat my daughter’.
After leaving court with supporters at the end of the five-day trial Hackett declined to comment.
It had been alleged that the offences took place on three occasions at venues away from Merseyside and another when the girl, who was in her late teens, was house minding on the Wirral. The fifth charge relates to occasions when he rubbed her stomach.
Divorcee Hackett, of Waterford Road, Oxton, Birkenhead, admitted rubbing her stomach on several occasions but said this was to relieve her mental and physical stress and was not of a sexual nature.
He also admitted that while in a hotel staying in separate rooms he had rubbed her back with his fingers going inside the top of her knickers, as she had back ache and he firmly denied it was a sexual incident.
She claimed that the following Monday he told her not to tell anyone what had happened but he told the court that he had no recollection of telling her that and did not believe it happened.
Hackett also said he had hugged and stroked her back when she was in bed after he called at the premises where she was house sitting but denied it was sexual. He explained that she was upset over her exam grades and he himself was in a bad place and the hug was ‘mutually consoling, reassuring’.
The teenager also claimed that he molested her to two separate occasions while she was in a tent but he denied these incidents occurred.
Hackett said over time their relationship deteriorated though they stayed in touch.
The girl only told her mum about the alleged incidents a year later when she broke down in tears and the police were then informed.
Hackett told the jury that he had never been interviewed by the police before and had not requested a solicitor. “I could not perceive a charge coming from what we had done. It wasn’t a sexual relationship. I hadn’t done anything wrong, why did I need a solicitor?”
Hackett, formerly from Chester, told the court that he was in charge of rowing at The Kings’s School in 2001 for four years. He coached Olympic rowers including Olivia Whitlam, Tom James and Chris Bartley, the latter two winning Olympic medals.