Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jailed: Girl, 18, whose rape lies led to the arrest of Afghanistan war heroes

False Rape Society Comment: As you read the news story below, try to answer two questions: (1) Why, on earth, were two war heroes held in custody for twelve hours on the basis of this allegation?  (2) Doesn't this tell us that there is something drastically wrong with the system?

Jailed: Girl, 18, whose rape lies led to the arrest of Afghanistan war heroes

Two soldiers back from the Afghanistan frontline were falsely accused of rape by a teenage girl hours before a parade in their honour, a court heard today.

The men were woken up to be arrested at dawn and instead of proudly marching through town with their comrades, spent the day in police custody falsely accused of a brutal sex attack.

Bobbie Martin, 18, was found in a ‘distressed state’ by a friend shortly after the alleged late night attack outside the Royal Hotel in Scarborough. She told police one of the men held her down while the other raped her.

In reality it was all a ‘charade’ and ‘wicked lies’ made for no apparent reason against two honourable men who had done nothing wrong at all, the judge said.

Returning war heroes Major James Thurstan and Regimental Sergeant Major Edward Pickersgill of the Coldstream Guards – and who are both married – never laid a finger on the jobless teenager.

They were sitting on a bench eating a takeaway meal when the drunken teenager approached them, flirted and exposed herself

The court heard they showed ‘considerable restraint’ to humour Martin before walking away and returning to their hotel beds to sleep. It was only when police examined CCTV that detectives realised the soldiers were telling the truth and the attack never happened.

Martin, of Leeds, admitted perverting the course of justice and was jailed for 18 months. Judge Stephen Ashurst told her that her lies ‘could have had devastating consequences’ for the soldiers had police not found the video footage. ‘You put on a considerable show and played the role of the victim,’ he said. ‘It was a complete charade.’

He said the soldiers had no idea why police arrested them. ‘One can only imagine the shock they felt. They had to explain to their families and colleagues how they came to be arrested.

‘Lest it be thought there is no smoke without fire, here there was no fire at all. These men had done nothing wrong at all.’

Major Thurstan and Sergeant Major Pickersgill, veterans of the Iraq campaign, served a six-month tour in central Helmand during which five of their comrades died.

The Coldstream Guards were invited to Scarborough to join the homecoming parade of the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, with whom they had served, for Armed Forces Day on June 26 last year.

Alan Mitcheson, prosecuting, told the court Martin was drunk after a celebration in town with friends and family. She was briefly separated from her female friend outside the hotel when she chatted to the soldiers. Her friend returned to find her ‘distressed’.

Police were called and Martin was taken to hospital, but refused to have a medical examination.Detectives found her underwear on the grass where she claimed to have been raped. The men had nothing to do with its removal.

The men were locked up for 12 hours, and had fingerprints, DNA and intimate medical samples taken. Mr Mitcheson said: ‘They were embarrassed and distressed, and missed the parade because they were in custody.

‘The Army is a very small place in which rumours spread very rapidly, both men being concerned that the completely false allegations would have an effect on their future careers.’

Martin initially stuck to her story before pleading guilty. Jonathan Devlin, defending, said: ‘Drink clearly played a part. The state of her intoxication was commented on by the two men who had the misfortune to come across her.’ A ‘traumatic’ childhood incident may have contributed, he added.

The judge said he hoped genuine rape victims took comfort from Martin’s punishment, adding: ‘Cases such as this cause serious damage to the interests of genuine victims.’