Best-selling author admits lying about rape allegation

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Dawn Annandale, the author of Call Me Elizabeth, a "true story" of a mother who turned to prostitution, has admitted lying about allegations of rape and wasting police time in court.

The 39-year-old bestselling author could face a prison sentence when she returns to Folkestone magistrates' court next month.

The court heard that she told police an intruder had broken into her home at Lyminge, near Folkestone in Kent, and raped her on 14 March last year. She believed that the accusation might delay a £35,000 debt collection court hearing against her three days later.

It was only after a seven-month police search for the offender, at a cost of £15,000, while panic spread among the residents of Lyminge who believed a rapist was on the loose, that one of Annandale's friends contacted the police to say she was lying.

Last October, Annandale admitted to lying about the rape. At the hearing last week, her defence lawyer Martyn Archbold said she had not told her partner or children about the court case. "The only explanation behind the false allegation is that she faced a county court hearing on 17 March," he said. "In her mind she believed by being involved in a police investigation of a serious nature that was an excuse to not attend the hearing to pay a considerable amount of money to a landlord."

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Kofkin said: "In this case, we spent an enormous amount of time using dozens of officers investigating what appeared to be a terrible crime in what is a lovely, quiet part of the world. It is also difficult to imagine what effect this had on local people's well-being. But it was also one that did not occur."

He said a forensic team spent three days examining every room of the house for any clue to link the suspect to the crime. The police set up roadblocks, conducted house-to-house inquiries and handed out leaflets appealing for information. "It does not get more serious than a stranger attack on a lone female in her home, close to a school at that time of the morning," said Det Ch Insp Kofkin.

A sequel to Call Me Elizabeth is due to be published by HarperCollins at the end of this year, albeit by the fiction department. The publishers were unable to comment yesterday on whether Call Me Madam, the sequel, would go ahead. Annandale's agent, Rebecca Winfield, said she could not comment on whether her client had even informed the publisher of the court case.

Annandale, who said that she "deeply regrets" her actions, sold more than 100,000 copies of her "memoir". She described the altruistic motives that led her to become a £250-a-time call girl. She refused to shatter her six children's seemingly "privileged, middle-class existence"; the large house in Kent; expensive school fees; and the endless round of after-school activities, when faced with mounting debts.

But even as Annandale appeared on programmes such as Newsnight and Richard & Judy while her book sold more than 100,000 copies, there were suspicions that the tale was not strictly autobiographical. Headlines such as "Call me... a fraud" and "A very literary liar" accompanied articles detailing convictions for benefit fraud and obtaining property by deception.

In reality, the home in Kent that she risked everything to protect had been repossessed and her three children at independent school had been withdrawn, leaving £10,000 in unpaid school fees.

Last week, at the court hearing, the chief magistrate told her: "You unlawfully wasted police time which includes an investigation costing £15,000 that lasted six months. We take this extremely seriously and we are going to require a report to be produced with all sentencing options open - including custody."