Sarah was no 'Aids avenger'

Friends of the woman jailed for deliberately infecting her partner with HIV say she is the victim of 'vindictive' police

She has been portrayed as an "Aids avenger" - a bitter woman who picked up men and deliberately tried to infect them with the HIV virus that leads to Aids.

Since she was jailed last Monday, Sarah Jane Porter has been pilloried after police suggestions that the 43-year-old single mother might have given the virus to "dozens" of men.

But now Ms Porter's friends have claimed she is the victim of a miscarriage of justice and a "vindictive" police campaign.

Her legal team said yesterday they were "horrified" at the "insensitive and aggressive handling of the case", and are to make a formal complaint about police behaviour. They will also appeal against the 32-month sentence that has split Ms Porter from her six-year-old son.

Ms Porter's friends say that far from luring dozens of men into a fatal honeytrap, she had just two relationships after discovering she was HIV-positive. Her only crime was an inability to admit to herself she had the virus. "She felt it was shameful and dirty," a friend said.

Another friend added: "She dotes on her little boy and he dotes on her. The idea that she's out clubbing every weekend picking up men is just wrong. She has a small son to look after. She isn't the type to have one-night stands ... She just pushed the HIV to the back of her mind - so far back that it was hardly there for her. She couldn't even say 'HIV'. When I found out, she thought I would stop our children playing together. She just wanted to be normal, to have a family like everyone else."

Ms Porter, a receptionist at a Vidal Sassoon salon in London, took an overdose, friends say, because the virus had made her "disgusted with herself". She was still in hospital when the police launched their investigation, raiding her flat in Kennington, south London.

Friends debunked the idea that Ms Porter was a "man-eater". "It's true that when she was younger she enjoyed the clubbing scene, but since she's had her boy she goes out once in a blue moon. The police interviewed everybody she's ever known. They pulled in people she hadn't seen for years, people she just had one date with, from long before she was infected," said a friend.

Ms Porter and her then-partner, the father of her son, were diagnosed with HIV in 2000. She was infected by him, but the relationship continued for a year. She then met "Mr C", the man she infected with HIV and with whom she had a two-year relationship.

Friends say Ms Porter was unable to admit to herself she had HIV and couldn't tell her lover. She attempted to have safe sex but was persuaded out of it by her partner. At the time she believed she was in a monogamous relationship, but he was having unsafe sex with other women, her friends claim. He discovered he had HIV after catching genital herpes. The relationship continued for a year after he was diagnosed.

Ms Porter then met "Mr B", the man who made the complaint to police. Friends say she practised safe sex with him but on one occasion the condom split. The following day he discovered, from a mutual friend, that she was HIV-positive. He went to the police, alleging he had been deliberately exposed to the virus, before he went for a test, which proved negative, Ms Porter's friends claim.

Ms Porter's defence lawyer, Wayne Cleaver, confirmed yesterday that they would be appealing against the length of the sentence. It is believed a central issue in any appeal will be the responsibility of all partners to practise safe sex.

Ms Porter completes her first week in prison tomorrow. "She can't see her little boy for at least 16 months," a friend said. "He is being looked after by friends. He knows his mum is in prison but he doesn't know why. He's an innocent little boy and we're trying to protect him from that. He wasn't allowed to watch television for two days or listen to the radio... He doesn't understand. He misses his mum."

Scotland Yard said forensic examination had shown Ms Porter was the source of infection in an HIV-positive man, and urged any other men who thought they had been infected by her to come forward. In a statement it said the inquiry had required "a great deal of time and sensitivity on the part of officers", and Ms Porter had given no help in identifying other "potential victims".

Women and HIV: Straight sex is main cause of infection

More than 19,000 women in the UK were estimated to be HIV-positive in March.

* Women are twice as likely to be infected by men during heterosexual sex than men are by women. Most of the women diagnosed with HIV in the UK have contracted it through heterosexual sex.

* Of the all the 15-to 24-year-olds with HIV globally, 60 per cent are women.

* There were 7,275 people in the UK newly diagnosed with HIV in 2004, and of these some 4,287 were heterosexual - 73 per cent of whom had been infected abroad, mainly in Africa.

* In 2005 one in every 548 women giving birth in England and Scotland were HIV-positive; 92 per cent were diagnosed before delivery. HIV can be transmitted through breast milk.

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam