A MAN has been cleared of raping a woman in the grounds of Bolton Parish Church - but he admitted stealing her handbag after having sex with her.

Luke Entwistle, aged 28, was alleged to have raped the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, after he met her in a Bradshawgate bar.

He has, however, admitted stealing the woman's handbag and mobile phone after their encounter, which happened in the churchyard off Churchgate in Bolton town centre in the early hours of October 5 last year.

Entwistle was also cleared of attempting to pervert the course of justice by getting his girlfriend to put the stolen phone down a drain.

Entwistle was due to go on trial today, but, in a dramatic twist, the jury of seven women and five men was directed by Recorder David Turner QC to find Entwistle, of no fixed address, to find the defendant not guilty of rape and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He had already admitted the theft of the victim’s handbag.

The case was dismissed a day after the jury had been sworn in, and prosecutor Alison Mather had not opened the case.

Ms Mather said: “What is clear is this defendant went to the graveyard with the complainant.

"That evening he took her handbag containing all of her money and keys to her house and her mobile telephone.


"The bag was subsequently found in a bin but the purse had been removed from it.”

Ms Mather told Bolton Crown Court the phone was disposed of down a grid by his girlfriend behind his home but it was later recovered.

Recorder Turner said the defendant made his position about the rape worse by lying to police about the bag.

He said: “This was an extremely mean theft because he had sex with a woman he had just met then left her in the graveyard.

"He, having had his satisfaction, left her to make her own way home and stole her phone, which must have been a highly humiliating experience for her.”

He added: “Entwistle, you having been found not guilty of rape and perverting the course of justice.

"Had you been convicted you would be going to prison for a very long time.

"However it would appear there were certain matters that have only just come to light.

"You are not a rapist but you are a thief and you stole in the most unpleasant way.

"How mean can you get? I hope you never come back before the court and you have learned your lesson.”

Entwistle, who has a previous conviction for falsely receiving benefits, was jailed for six months for theft but was released from custody after having spent 132 days on remand.