A LONGRIDGE man falsely accused of raping a woman in her home has spoken of how the 12-month ordeal has ruined his life.
Shaun Clarke’s world was ripped apart after the allegation last year.
Before he was charged, Mr Clarke was a respected paramedic, with a promising career.
But now he has lost his job, hasn’t been allowed access to his 11-year-old son for six months, and has been left suffering bouts of deep depression.
At his lowest, the 36-year-old, of Thirlmere Drive, Longridge, admitted drinking a bottle of vodka a day to help get him through. His nightmare finally ended on Monday, when a jury at Preston Crown Court unanimously found him not guilty of the rape charge.
Speaking at home shortly after leaving court, he described the past year as like having been told he had “cancer and waiting to find out if it was terminal”.
Mr Clarke said: “I have not had a life for a year. I have lost everything, I’ve lost my job, was on the verge of losing my home – I’ve not seen my son for six months and I won’t even go to the shops.
“It sounds bad, but I’d rather have been accused of murder.
“Rape is the worst allegation to have made against you – the whole stigma is just awful.”
Mr Clarke spent 13 years with the ambulance service working in both Preston and Blackpool.
At one time, he was the youngest qualified paramedic in Lancashire, aged just 22 when he completed his training, and was a teaching instructor by the age of 25.
He was also the driving force behind setting up the successful Longridge First Responders scheme.
He had been looking forward to the challenge of a secondment to the Air Ambulance Service, when police officers came to his home in the early morning on April 13 last year, and arrested him on suspicion of rape.
It was alleged Mr Clarke had broken into the woman’s house through a back door, and raped her in her bedroom.
He said: “I was dumbfounded, completely shocked, I knew it was serious, but it was a whole different league when I realised what I was being accused of.
“The only thing I knew to do was try and stay calm and tell the truth. My story hasn’t changed once since that first statement.”
After being charged, Mr Clarke spent six days in prison, before being bailed.
He was brought before the court in November last year, but the five-day trial was halted when the first jury was unable to reach a verdict.
Following a re-trial last week, Mr Clarke was found not guilty on Monday. The jury took less than an hour to return the unanimous verdict.
He has always admitted sex did take place, but stressed the woman involved had consented.
Mr Clarke said: “I have a strong dislike of people who are violent against women, so then to be accused of it and lose everything, when I knew it was a lie, was just devastating.”
He added the investigation also had a devastating impact on his mother, June, who has supported him throughout the case.
“This has ruined not only my life but also those around me,” he said.
“My mum has supported me the whole way, but she has been in bits, there’s not been anyone there for her.”
He was also critical of a system that allows defendants to be named in rape cases before a verdict is reached.
He said: “The whole set-up is made to make you look like a criminal. All eyes are on you and there’s no getting away from it.’’
He says his aim now is to try to rebuild his life, looking for a new job, and to re-establish contact with his son.
Mr Clarke said: “I loved my job but I realise I’ve got to move on and accept my job as a paramedic has gone.
“I was a confident person before and I’ve neverin my whole life not worked. I’ve got to start my life again and I will do, I’m desperate to build myself a future.
“I was in such a low place but now I just need to move on – I could have gone to prison for something I didn’t do.”