Pop star Michael Jackson was dramatically cleared of all child abuse charges last night.
The 46-year-old singer (pictured), who faced up to 20 years in prison, remained silent and looked devoid of emotion as the verdicts were read out at the court in Santa Maria, California.
But his calm demeanour was in complete contrast to the scenes outside the court, where hundreds of fans cheered, clapped and hugged each other as they heard that their idol was a free man.
As Jackson stepped into the sunshine having been acquitted on all charges by the jury after 32 hours of deliberations, his supporters went wild.
During the 16-week trial Jackson had been accused of sexually abusing the then 13-year-old cancer sufferer Gavin Arvizo, plying him with alcohol and conspiring to hold him and his family captive. He was cleared of all charges.
After Jackson left the court - refusing to comment to waiting reporters - and headed back to his Neverland ranch in a cortege of black SUVs, Judge Melville read a statement on behalf of the jury.
"We the jury, feeling the weight of the world's eyes on us all, thoroughly and meticulously studied the evidence," they said.
" Following the jury instructions we confidently came to our verdict. It is our hope that the verdict is testament to the beliefs in our justice system and the truth."
Inside the court room, a sombre Tom Sneddon, the lead prosecutor who has worked to get Jackson convicted for more than ten years, said it was time to look forward.
Asked whether this was the end of his pursuit of the star, he said: "No comment."
He added: "I learned a very expensive lesson in life a long time ago, and that was you never look back, you always look forward."
Sneddon said he stood by what Gavin Arvizo and his family said in court and that he was 100 per cent convinced his team had done their job and done it conscientiously.
The investigation into the pop star was triggered in February 2003 by British journalist Martin Bashir's bombshell documentary in which Jackson admitted sharing his bed with young boys.
Charges were brought nine months later after police raided his sprawling fairytale estate. When a warrant was issued, Jackson turned himself in to Santa Barbara police and was handcuffed under the glare of the world's media.
In court, Gavin Arvizo claimed the singer had molested him twice and gave graphic descriptions of how Jackson had encouraged him to masturbate and had then shown him how.
The prosecution painted Jackson as a serial child molester and Neverland as a predator's lair.
They accused him of using his celebrity and Peter Pan image to entice children while showering their mothers with lavish gifts.
The defence claimed Gavin Arvizo and his family were trying to pull "the biggest con of their careers".
Of five alleged previous victims, three, including Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin, took the stand to insist they had never been mistreated in any way.
Jackson never testified in his own defence, but out-takes from Bashir's documentary allowed jurors to listen to him speak in his own words.
They portrayed a vulnerable, compassionate man who had been severely affected by his childhood fame and consequent celebrity status.
He discussed his overwhelming loneliness and fear of his father and said the only people in the world he felt he could trust were children.