Woman walks free after making false rape claim

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The Independent Online
A British mother-of-four escaped being jailed in Cyprus yesterday when a judge fined her pounds 400 for falsely claiming that she had been raped.

Suzanne Warburton, 30, and her boyfriend, Paul Shearsmith, 26, who was fined the same amount, had been warned by the British High Commission in Cyprus that they could expect jail sentences.

The same judge, Michalis Christodoulou, then fined three other British tourists almost the same total amount for falsely reporting that they had lost a watch.

Outside the court, Ms Warburton showed no signs of stress and smiled and joked with her boyfriend as they waited to pay the fines. "It's a great relief to be going home," she said.

Only two weeks ago, the same district court at Larnaca sentenced a 22- year-old Irish woman, Annette Mangan, to four months in Nicosia central prison for making similar false charges of rape.

Judge Christodoulou told the couple, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, that their fabricated claim was a serious offence and that an innocent man had his name smeared so they could try to claim insurance money.

The judge said there was a need for deterrent entences in such cases, but added that he was taking into account their clean record and that their admission of lying to police had prevented an innocent man from being arrested.

Last Thursday, Warburton and her boyfriend went to police claiming she had been raped by the son of the hotel owner where they were staying just outside Ayia Napa.

Police became suspicious because the couple had taken so long to file the complaint, and had only done so just a few hours before their plane was due to leave Cyprus.

Yesterday, Judge Christodoulou said that bogus insurance claims by tourists on the island were out of control, with police receiving between 30 and 40 false claims per day.

Civil engineer Chris Barker, 30, from Sutton, Surrey, his girlfriend, Kirsty Sales, 24, a secretary from Wallington, Surrey, and their friend Margaret Fernandez, 30, from Middlesex, were fined pounds 250 each for trying to claim insurance money for a stolen watch worth pounds 100.

Barker said Miss Sales had retracted her verbal complaint five minutes after making it to police, but was forced to make a written statement. He claimed police were hostile, banging desks and chairs, and saying she would go to prison if they didn't confess to the false claim.

"It was a silly thing to do and petty, but you hear all the time that people get away with this. We were treated as if we'd killed someone," he said.