The girl at the centre of the Adam Johnson child sex trial has described how it has been the "hardest 12 months of my life" since the footballer's arrest and hit out at those who claimed she was lying about the footballer. The girl, now 16, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she hopes the 28-year-old realises the "hurt and damage" he has caused and hopes to rebuild her life.
Johnson, 28, was found guilty by a jury of one count of sexual activity with a child in relation to the schoolgirl. He had already admitted one further count of sexual activity with the 15-year-old and one count of grooming.
In a victim statement read outside Bradford Crown Court by police on her behalf, the girl described her "shock and disbelief" that Johnson started messaging her as she was a massive supporter of Sunderland and "absolutely idolised" the winger.
She also hit out on those who called her a liar and abused her after he declared his innocence. She added: "Him being found guilty, shows everyone I was telling the truth. I hope people can see that everything is not always as it first seems and opinions should only be based on facts and not on rumours."
Johnson could now face up to 10 years in jail when he is sentenced for four child sex offences.
Victim's statement in full:
"From the very beginning of all of this I always doubted that people would believe me.
"I was talking to Adam Johnson, it was surreal for me. He was my favourite football player for Sunderland, a club I was a massive supporter of. As a Sunderland fan I absolutely idolised Adam.
"He was my hero. I attended the home games whenever I could. It was something I looked forward to. When Adam messaged me I was in shock and disbelief. I didn't even believe it was Adam at first. He had to prove to me that it was him because it was that surreal.
"He offered me a match-worn signed shirt so I was obviously over the moon. He asked me straight away how old I was and I said '15' because I didn't see it as a problem as I was only getting a signed shirt. In fact, I told him that I had only just turned 15.
"I was overwhelmed by all of this. This was my favourite player and he was texting me. I felt used and let down by him.
"It's been the hardest year of my life and I've had to face so much abuse after he claimed his innocence. I was made out to be a liar, if anything, I held things back because I didn't want all of this to come out.
"What happened in his car has turned my life upside down. I have lost all of my confidence. My school work has suffered.
"There are people out there who have made assumptions about me and that alone has been hard to deal with. I have been unable to defend myself publically. The gossip on social media and hearing all of the horrible names that people have been calling me has been devastating to me, my friends and my family. People were lying about me and what I had said.
"They don't understand the impact their words can have on someone. Him being found guilty, shows everyone I was telling the truth. I hope people can see that everything is not always as it first seems and opinions should only be based on facts and not on rumours.
"The last 12 months have been horrendous and there have been times when I've wanted to hide away from the world. There have been times I haven't felt able to face people. There have been times when I've tried not to show people how upset I am, but sometimes it hasn't been possible and I'd just cry. I've felt so broken.
"I've been in some very dark places over that time and I thought the trial and giving evidence, having my say, would give me closure. But it didn't. It put me back into the same dark places and I felt worse than I've ever felt before. This was because I still didn't feel believed.
"I feel sad for Stacey and what she has been through. I hope Adam realises the hurt and damage he has caused. I now want to put this awful experience behind me and begin to rebuild my life. I hope I can move on from this and look to the future."
Det Insp Aelfwynn Sampson, of Durham Constabulary, said: "This was not a case where he didn't know how old a girl was. From the start of their contact, he knew full well that she had just turned 15 and yet this did not stop him. The law is clear. The legal age of consent is set at 16 to protect young people. He no doubt thought that he would get away it, but today demonstrates that no one is above the law."