Darren Sapstead, 38, of Chelmsford in Essex left the court in Santa Cruz a free man, the Irish Sun reported. He had been charged with the murder of Garry Walton, 21, of Dungarvon in southeast Ireland.
Jurors in their verdict said they did not trust the testimony of Lucy and Katie Smethurst, two sisters who testified they had witnessed the crime. Katie told Manchester police in 1996 she had seen Sapstead grab Walton and push him over the railing of the cruise boat, while Lucy said Sapstead had visited their hotel room and threatened to harm them if they told anyone about the killing.
"The sisters changed their story many times between 1996 and today, whereas the defendant has always kept to the same version since the beginning," jurors said in their verdict.
Robert and Catherine Walton seemed disappointed by the verdict, although Robert said finding Sapstead guilty would not have brought their son back.