Man charged with raping child cousin found not guilty
A JURY has acquitted a Bundaberg man accused of raping his young cousin.
An entourage of family and friends of the 23-year-old defendant piled into the Bundaberg District Court gallery to hear the verdict on Tuesday afternoon.
Frozen in place as jurors lined up before Judge William Everson, the accused's relatives breathed a sigh of relief as the words "not guilty" rung out across the courtroom.
The sound of tears and quiet whoops cut through the tension that had suffocated the room only moments before.
The rape trial that had no-doubt torn a whole family in two was finally over.
The Crown alleged that between April 2013 and November 2015, the man took his cousin (between six and nine years of age) into a bathroom, locked the door and put his penis in her mouth.
Several witness, all related to the man and the little girl gave evidence during the trial.
The two-day trial came to an end when jurors found the 23-year-old not guilty.
Defence barrister Callan Cassidy said the Crown's case relied on the word of one person - a young child who, at a sleepover, "blurted out" what she claimed had happened several years after the alleged incident occurred.
"Children at that age don't appreciate what they're saying," Mr Cassidy said.
He argued children were taught from a young age that lying was wrong, which is why they didn't always admit when they'd been dishonest.
Mr Cassidy also referred to the lack of medical proof and the holes in the child's version of events - the most obvious related on a pet bird.
In her account, the girl said after the alleged rape between 2013 and 2015, she had played with a pet bird.
Refuting the claim, the owner of the bird - the acquitted man's mother - said the child was scared of the animal.
"(She) wasn't very confident around the bird ... (she) was afraid of him because he'd bite," she said from the box.
The court was also shown a receipt for some bird-related products bought when the animal first came home with the woman, which showed the items were bought in 2016 - more than a year outside the time frame of the alleged rape.
The Crown's case also relied on a confusing claim the girl made in a police interview, when she said the door which her cousin allegedly locked before pulling his pants down had a lever-type handle and a twist-type lock.
"They are just provable falsehoods incorporated in a story," Mr Cassidy said, after showing the jury a photo of the relevant doorknob, which was round with a push-lock.
Calling the claims "nonsense", he said the girl couldn't even "keep her stories straight from one telling to another over the space of hours".
The statement came after the court heard the child say her cousin didn't grab her during the alleged rape, but then later stating that he did.
Mr Cassidy implored the jury to look at only the evidence before them - the vast majority of which came from the defence, including the defendant's testimony, which he reminded the court he did not have to provide but chose to give anyway.
"Your verdict will be one of the most important decisions you make in your life," he concluded.