The widow of a Court of Appeal judge has been cleared of all charges after a man accused her of sexually abusing him when he was a young boy in the 1980s.
Lady Lavinia Nourse was married to Sir Martin Nourse who died in 2017, aged 85.
The 77-year-old, of Newmarket in Suffolk, described the allegations, which relate to a single male complainant, as a “complete fantasy”.
Jurors at Peterborough’s Nightingale court took less than five hours of deliberation to find her not guilty of all 17 charges.
She was cleared of five counts of indecently assaulting a boy under the age of 12, and was also found not guilty of 12 counts of indecency with a child.
The defendant, who stood beside her legal team, wiped away tears as the verdicts were returned.
Speaking after the trial, she said that her life had been a “living hell” since the “cruel and baseless allegations” were made in the wake of her husband’s death.
Lady Lavinia had told jurors the complainant was “obviously after money” and that the allegations were “completely untrue”.
When she was interviewed by police in 2019 she said she was “shocked” when she was first told of the accusations against her.
“To me this is a complete fantasy,” she said.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Later in the interview, she said: “I’m finding this very difficult.
“It really is cloud cuckooland.”
Jennifer Knight QC, prosecuting, earlier told the trial the boy “tried to bury away the memories” of alleged abuse but that, years later, after he got married and had children, he “became increasingly troubled by his recollection” and told his wife.
A number of Lady Lavinia’s high-profile friends were called as character witnesses as part of her defence case, including Dame Mary Archer and Sir Malcolm Rifkind.
Historian and journalist Simon Heffer told jurors that Lady Lavinia was “a person I regard as being of complete integrity” and Michael Mates, who was for 36 years a Conservative MP, said she was “a very good woman”.
Dame Mary, the wife of Lord Jeffrey Archer and chairman of the Science Museum, said she and Lady Lavinia were “both completely cat mad” and she described the defendant as “one of my closest friends”.
Sir Malcolm, who served as a cabinet member under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said Lady Lavinia was “very sociable and very gregarious”.
After Lady Lavinia was cleared of all counts she sat back down, slumped forward and rested her head on the desk in front of her with her arms folded around it.
As she left the Nightingale court, in the Knight’s Chamber at Peterborough’s cathedral, she told reporters: “It’s a happy result.”
She added: “Finally some good news.”
In a statement issued after the conclusion of the trial, Lady Lavinia said: “Today I have been completely exonerated of all allegations made against me.
“These cruel and baseless allegations were made after the death of my husband Sir Martin Nourse and my life since that time has been a living hell.
“Allegations made during the trial sought to traduce the memory of my beloved husband, who it was claimed had turned a blind eye.
“Defending myself and my husband’s memory during the trial has been the most difficult and heaviest burden of my life.
“My very greatest relief in being exonerated is having my husband’s reputation fully restored.”