THE TRIAL of three men accused of rape, which was due to start today, will not go ahead after the alleged victim failed to catch a flight to the UK from her home in North Africa.

The woman had alleged that she was raped and sexually abused by a group of men in Bolton when she was a child in 2005 and 2006.

Majid Altaf, aged 41, of Kingsland Avenue, Farnworth, Nasar Ahmed, aged 41, of The Pungle, Westhoughton and Shahzad Khan, aged 43, of First Avenue, Little Lever were arrested and charged with a range of offences including rape.

But on Friday Altaf was formally found not guilty of all charges after Iain Simkin, prosecuting, offered no evidence against him. The same verdicts are expected to be reached for the two other men when they appear at Bolton Crown Court today.

"The Crown have been unable to secure the complainant's attendance at court," said Mr Simkin.

"There have been at least four flights booked that she has failed to get on. In her absence the prosecution have reached a conclusion that there is not a reasonable prospect of success and so the crown prosecution service offer no evidence."

Mr Simkin said public money had been given to the woman to enable her to travel to the UK.

"Am I to understand she has taken the money and not come? It is a matter of grave concern but there is nothing I can do about that," said Judge Graeme Smith.

"It is of particular concern for defendants who have been facing very serious charges."

After entering "not guilty" verdicts for Altaf, Judge Smith told him: "You have always denied these counts.

"Reading from your defence you say, 'I do not know the complainant at all. What she describes is horrific but I am not the person that she describes as Maj."

Judge Smith said it has been established that the woman has been a victim of sexual abuse as a child because at least one person has admitted to it. But Altaf maintained he was mistakenly identified as being one of her abusers.

"You leave this court without any stain whatsoever on your name," Judge Smith told him.