Two police officers walked free from court yesterday after they were acquitted of assaulting a driver who died after he was arrested.

Pcs Robin Shane, 31, and John Shatford, 32, hugged their weeping girlfriends outside the dock as they were discharged, before leaving the Old Bailey in London.

A jury unanimously acquitted them of assault causing actual bodily harm on Robin Goodenough, 26 during an arrest in Alma Place, off Cowley Road, Oxford, on September 27, 2003. The officers may now face an internal police investigation.

Mr Goodenough smashed his chin on the road, dislodging two teeth during his arrest the court heard. He then suffered heart failure and died.

Former Royal Marine Pc Shane, admitted punching Mr Goodenough twice in the face to stop him resisting arrest.

The officers were originally accused of manslaughter and assault, along with Pc Paul Summerville, 25, who was acquitted of both counts following a trial last year, but a jury could not reach verdicts on Pcs Shane and Shatford.

The manslaughter charge was dropped, and Pcs Shane and Shatford were re-tried for assault.

All three officers have already been the subjects of an internal police investigation following the first trial.

Deputy chairman of the Thames Valley Police Federation, Mike Carrick, said: "Our sympathies are with the Goodenough family but we are pleased the officers have been found not guilty."

He added: "They have been back at work but they have not been back on the beat."

Jurors had heard that Mr Goodenough, of Brampton Road, Barton, Oxford, was addicted to sniffing lighter fuel and was a 'persistent petty criminal' who had served prison sentences, mostly for driving offences.

Banned from driving, Mr Goodenough was spotted driving his sister's Vauxhall Astra. Nine officers in a police van spotted the car speeding away from them in Oxford and gave chase.

They then got out to surround the car, believing Mr Goodenough and his passengers might run away.

Oxfordshire police commander, Chief Supt David McWhirter, said: "It is highly regrettable that a young man lost his life during this incident and this has been a very difficult time for Mr Goodenough's family as well as our officers.

"For Pc John Shatford and Pc Robin Shane to wait nearly three years for the case to be resolved is unacceptable, both for them and for Mr Goodenough's family.

"The officers may now be the subject of a further investigation to see if any breach of police misconduct regulations occurred so we are unable to comment further."

FAMILY 'DEVASTATED' OVER VERDICT Robin Goodenough's family said they were devastated by the verdict but relieved their ordeal was over as they left the Old Bailey yesterday.

Mum Glenys and his brother Thomas, had sat through two trials and listened to the intricate details of Mr Goodenough's death described in court.

Thomas Goodenough, speaking before he left the court, said: "We are absolutely devastated but we are glad it's the end now.

"We are just having to prepare ourselves to leave the court, I am in absolute shock, I don't know how to describe what I feel apart from pure devastation."

He said as the verdict was read out he just sat in the court room. He said: "I felt two things, part devastation and part relief that it was all over.

"It wasn't the decision I wanted, but it is all over now. We have come a long way, held our heads up and been strong.

"We have kept our dignity through all this and I am proud my family and I have done this. It has been horrific.

"Now I can concentrate on my family and my home life, which I haven't done for the last three years.

"This has taken a huge chunk of my life."

Thomas said his mother was also devastated by the verdict.