MARK LATTA, the Hampshire businessman accused of murdering his ten-week-old baby, has this morning been cleared on the orders of a judge.

The dad of four had been accused of killing his baby daughter Charlotte in December 2001 after losing his temper with the awkward feeder at their former family home in Bishop's Waltham.

But today Mr Justice Grigson ordered the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on Latta because there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

Mr Latta had tears in his eyes as he stood in the dock as the early verdict was delivered.

As he formally applied to have his client released from custody, Anthony Jennings QC said the past two years had been a nightmare for Mr Latta.

As the emotional 41-year-old was eventually released, he turned to the public gallery where his family had gathered, smiled, and mouthed the words "thank you".

The judge, sitting at Winchester Crown Court, had told the court: "I have concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to convict Mr Latta on either a charge of murder or manslaughter, which are the only two verdicts available to you.

"It was the analysis of the evidence I took over the weekend that has prompted me to take the course I am about to take."

The judge continued that the prosecution had failed to prove that Charlotte's death had been the result of a deliberate act of violence and that neither could they prove that Mr Latta had performed such an act.

The judge also called into question medical evidence offered by both the prosecution and the defence, saying that there was serious dispute over the medical allegations said to have been linked to Charlotte's death.

The judge added: "That someone had abused Charlotte is beyond doubt.

"While Mr Latta is one of those who could have inflicted the injuries, there is no evidence that he did and all the evidence is that he was a caring and loving father."

Mr Latta, whose business Powerworks is a major IT company in the UK, had also faced two charges of grievous bodily harm which were thrown out halfway through the six-week trial.

A police spokesman said after the case: "In this case the Crown Prosecution Service felt there was evidence with which a jury should have an opportunity to reach a verdict. However, the court has today decided there is no case to answer. The police do not intend to reopen this investigation."