A WOMAN who falsely claimed she was raped by two men has been given an official warning for wasting police time - after her allegation left a Sheffield community gripped by fear.
The 41-year-old told South Yorkshire Police she was attacked by two strangers on land off Greenland Road, near Greenland Way, in the early hours of Sunday, January 30 - sparking a major hunt for the rapists.
But police presented the woman with information which contradicted her version of events and she has agreed she lied.
Detective Inspector Richard Liversidge said: “Serious sexual assaults like rape are very serious crimes that bring a great deal of trauma to victims and their families.
“As with any report of this nature, it is thoroughly investigated. Information received is checked against a number of different sources and all lines of enquiry are pursued.
“In this instance the investigating officers began to suspect that things were not quite right. Two men were arrested - however witnesses and other information supported their account.
“Her false report tied up a good deal of police time that could have been spent on other matters, and unfortunately, cases like this can only have an adverse effect on efforts to tackle genuine reports of rape.
“The false allegation also spread unnecessary panic in the local community, who feared a rapist was at large.”
Businesswoman Julie Lindley, who runs a hairdressing salon in Darnall, said the claim had spread alarm through the community.
She said: “Her rape claim had the community up in arms - she had all our support and sympathy and we all pressed the police to catch the attackers fearing for our safety.
“I am appalled that somebody would make up such an offence. Its disgraceful.”
A Rape Crisis spokeswoman said: “We recognise that false reporting of any kind must be frustrating for the police service. Nonetheless, it is extremely important to remember that only a very small minority of sexual offences reported to the police are estimated to be false allegations.
“Contrary to popular perception, the rate of false allegations of rape is similar to that of any other serious crime, that is, around three per cent. By contrast, it’s believed that over 85 per cent of the one-in-five women in this country who will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes will never report to the police.”
Following the woman’s allegation, police cordoned off the crime scene and carried out extensive house-to-house enquiries to try to located the culprits.
Detectives working on the case even issued descriptions of the two men they were searching for and stepped up police patrols.
Worried residents packed community meetings in Darnall, where women said they were afraid to walk the streets alone and men said they feared for the safety of their wives, girlfriends and children.
In the first heated meeting in the wake of the reported sex attack around 80 angry residents gathered to discuss the offence and quiz local police officers on what they were doing to catch the culprits.
The so-called victim’s tearful son also attended the meeting and burst into tears after demanding “justice” for his mum.
Some branded the suburb a “no go area” claiming crime was spiralling out of control.
During a second meeting with police officers and local city councillors last week the sex attack was raised again with locals demanding to know what progress officers had made with their investigation.
They were told two men had been arrested on suspicion of rape and bailed pending further enquiries.