A cricketer whose former team-mate allegedly raped a sleeping woman has

told jurors the accused is still his best friend.

England Lions and former Worcestershire CCC batsman Joe Clarke told a

court he had consensual sex with the woman before leaving her in a

bedroom to be sick in a bathroom, where he fell asleep.

Mr Clarke, who was arrested but not charged with any offence, told

Worcester Crown Court the next thing he remembered was the woman waking

him and claiming she had been raped by his friend Alex Hepburn.

Hepburn, an all-rounder with Worcestershire, denies rape, claiming the

woman opened her eyes and kissed him at the start of a 20-minute sexual


The woman, who cannot be identified, broke down in the witness box on

Tuesday after being cross-examined about details of the alleged attack.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Mr Clarke, who now plays for

Nottinghamshire, claimed the woman contacted him about four months after

the incident and told him she wanted to drop the case.

Recalling the night of the alleged rape in April 2017, Mr Clarke told a

jury of eight women and four men that he left a bedroom to be sick after

drinking Guinness, vodka and other spirits during a night out.

"I didn't want to be sick in front of her so I went to the bathroom,"

the 22-year-old told the court.

Mr Clarke said the next thing he was aware of was the woman waking him

up and saying: "Your housemate has just slept with me. Alex has raped


Asked by prosecutor Miranda Moore QC what his reaction had been, Mr

Clarke added: "I was very shocked. I put my head in my hands and just

questioned it.

"It was a massive shock. I just kept saying 'What?' She shook me and

woke me and just said 'Alex has raped me'."

Mr Clarke, the court was told, then asked Hepburn about the claims and

"he just said no and shook his head".

Answering questions from defence counsel Michelle Heeley QC, Mr Clarke

said the woman had sought him out in August or September 2017 and seemed

eager to speak with him.

"I told her I didn't want to speak to her," he said.

"She said that she didn't want any of this to happen, to which I said

'If you didn't want any of this to happen, it wouldn't still be going


"She said 'I wanted to drop it but they won't let me'."

The court has heard claims that both Hepburn and Mr Clarke were involved

in a sexual conquest "game" - after setting up a "stat chat" page on

WhatsApp to keep a record of sex with women.

Ms Heeley described the "game" as "basically a contest as to who could

sleep with the most women".

In her last question to Mr Clarke, Ms Heeley asked: "Is Alex still your

best friend?"

Clarke responded: "Yes."

The defence case is due to start on Wednesday.

Hepburn, 23, of Portland Street, Worcester, has pleaded not guilty to

two counts of rape.