Police have called off the hunt for an alleged Palmerston North rapist, who they thought had offended against a teenage girl in The Square, believing a false complaint had been laid.
They have referred a 16-year-old girl – who can't be named for legal reasons – to Youth Aid for making a false complaint after she allegedly told police she had been sexually assaulted in the early hours of September 5.
Police say she laid the complaint at Palmerston North police station at 5.35am, leading police on a manhunt which involved scouring the city's CCTV footage and security camera tapes from nearby businesses.
In a bid to identify the man, officers were considering releasing some of the footage or getting an identikit sketch drawn up.
But Palmerston North detective Jonny Oram said investigations were now complete and a 16-year-old had been referred to youth aid for allegedly making a false complaint.
Mr Oram said that false accusations of sexual assaults were unfortunate because they had the potential to deter genuine victims from coming forward for fear of not being believed.
"We hope that the thorough investigation that has been carried out in this case clearly demonstrates that we take all sexual assault cases very seriously, and we continue to encourage genuine victims to seek our help."
Manawatu Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre manager Ann Kent said it was "disappointing" when false claims were made.
Rape and sexual abuse were still among the most undereported crimes – with only an estimated 9 per cent being reported – and women should not be dissuaded from telling the truth.
"I would never want to see any woman deterred from coming forward ... support is always available for victims of sexual abuse," Ms Kent said.