The worst day of Paul Haslam’s life began at 3.30am with a loud knock on the door from the police. They told him he was being arrested on suspicion of rape, and took him to Charles Cross police station in Plymouth.
There, he was questioned about what had happened the previous evening, when he had spent the night with a girl he had known for only a short time. He knew he had done nothing wrong, but he did not know how he could prove it.
Later that day Mr Haslam was released without charge. Three weeks later he received a letter telling him that no further action was being taken. By then he had lost his job and had to tell his family about the arrest.
Mr Haslam, 30, had hardly thought about that day nine years ago until he read in his local newspaper this week that the woman who made the false allegation against him had since done the same thing to seven other men.
Gemma Gregory left a trail of disrupted lives across the city of Plymouth. A judge gave her a 12-month suspended jail sentence for perjury for her latest false accusation and ordered her to undergo psychiatric treatment. Mr Haslam, then aged 21, had moved to Devon from his home town of Bolton when he encountered Gregory, then in her late teens. He was working as a care assistant in the nursing home where a relative of hers was being looked after.
When his employer found out that he had been arrested, he lost his job. The news also ruined a holiday in Florida for his aunt and uncle. Mr Haslam, now the father of three young boys, said: “If it hadn’t been for two other people in the house who knew nothing untoward had happened, I could have gone to prison for a crime I didn’t commit. The thought makes my blood run cold.”
Gregory’s latest victim had no idea that she had a history of claiming rape when he was asked to attend the same police station in September last year.
The man had had a relationship with Gregory but ended it because of her heavy drinking. The couple met on a few occasions later on, and one night he stayed at her flat. The next evening, Gregory claimed to police that she had been raped. She was given a medical examination and repeated the claim in a video interview.
The man was saved from a possible charge because of “intimate” text messages sent by Gregory. Detective Constable Paul Weymouth, of Plymouth CID, said: “We have a log of 512 telephone calls from or about her. She wanted to see him in prison.”
Detective Constable Weymouth said some other men accused had to have penile swabs, and their genetic fingerprints were put on the national police database.
The danger of Gregory’s lies is that they may deter women who have been genuinely attacked from coming forward. Detective Constable Weymouth said: “It is about encouraging real victims to come forward, while reminding people who are thinking of making a false allegation to think again.”