A man has been cleared of plotting to murder his parents and steal their money.

The trial of Ian Ayres, who was charged with attempted murder, collapsed today after his defence successfully argued he had no case to answer. The jury was ordered to formally acquit the 23-year-old after eight days of prosecution evidence.

His relieved father, Robert, said after the hearing: "We're just glad it's all over." Neil Campbell has already admitted attempting to murder Vivian Ayres and wounding Robert Ayres with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Lewes Crown Court had heard how Campbell, 23, attacked Mrs Ayres with a whisky bottle and a meat hammer before hitting Mr Ayres with a meat tenderiser. Ordering the jury to acquit this morning, Judge Anthony Scott-Gall described it as a "most unhappy and dark case".

He said: "There is as a matter of law on the evidence in this very dark case, from whatever perspective you view it, insufficient evidence for you to continue considering the guilt or innocence of this defendant."

In the dock Ian Ayres showed no emotion but his mother, sitting just behind him, smiled and turned to her husband in delight as he was discharged. Ian left the dock to be greeted with a hug from his parents.

The case collapsed after Ayres' defence barrister, Anthony Donne, argued there was nothing to tie his client with Neil Campbell's plot to kill Ian's parents at their home in East Preston, near Worthing, on April 30 last year.

Ian was alleged to have joined the plot only after Campbell, 23, tried to kill him with a meat tenderising hammer but there was no evidence to suggest Ayres agreed to help him. The only evidence against him was provided by Campbell himself.

Earlier in the trial, Campbell had claimed Ian corroborated a false story about being involved in a road rage incident and at one point during the attack on his parents had told him to "finish them quickly".

But Campbell's claims were refuted by Ian's parents, both of

whom told the court Ian did nothing during the attack to indicate he was part of Campbell's plot. The judge also dismissed the prosecution claim that Ian's inaction also pointed to his guilt.

Acquitting Ian, the judge said his behaviour during the attack "simply suggests he was looking after number one and could not give a damn about what was happening to his parents. It is unattractive but does not support the crown's case."

Earlier in the trial the jury heard Ian had told police he watched his parents being attacked but felt if he tried to help he would put his own life at risk. After the trial Ian Ayres' solicitor, Christopher Hayes, read a short statement.

He said: "Throughout, my client has maintained his innocence and has vehemently denied any involvement in these dreadful and wicked attacks carried out by Neil Campbell. He feels the police and prosecuting authorities have let him and his parents down in this matter. He is both relieved and grateful."

He said the last ten months had been an exceptionally traumatic time for the family.

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