`I carried on, but I was almost afraid to go out to the shops'

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"IT WAS like the cold feeling, the dumb feeling that you get when you hear someone has died. It was just awful," said John, not his real name, a primary school teacher of 30 years.

He had been teaching in the same school for six years when a seven-year- old girl falsely accused him of taking her into a side room during a school disco, cuddling and kissing her.

The teacher said yesterday: "It was probably one of the worst experiences of my life. I was very worried that people would remember it. From the kid making the allegation to it being cleared up was nearly a fortnight and during that time it was awful. I carried on teaching, but I was almost afraid to go out to the shops.

"I lived in the area and I worried that the parents had told other people; I was scared stiff," he said. "All the people at the school stood by me. There was nobody among the adults who said anything other than that they believe me.

"I was always careful where I was with little boys or little girls. There are always times in the classroom when someone comes in who should not be there and you have to guide them out, or you have to comfort someone. Reasonable parents would always recognise that you have to comfort people sometimes, but they might not always be reasonable.

"What still worries me is the sense that had I not been believed then I would have lost my job."