When Karen Seldon invited her daughter’s friends into her home, she never imagined that opening up her door would lead to her being accused of a shameful crime.
In 2014, Karen’s world fell apart when one of the boys – who she had only met four times – started spreading rumours about their ‘relationship’. And despite never spending a single moment alone with the 15-year-old, Karen was forced to face court to try to clear her name.
The single mother from South Wales said: “The nightmare I have been through is beyond comprehension – there really are no words for it.
“What happened to me is utterly terrifying because it could happen to any parent out there who allows their children’s friends to come into their home.”
Karen, 48, explains that she is very close with her daughters, Katie, now 28, and Amie, 20, so when her youngest, then 14, struck up a friendship with a boy of a similar age she didn’t think anything of it.
“I didn’t know this boy, as he wasn’t in Amie’s usual circle of friends but if she liked him he was welcome at our home,” Karen says. “I always encouraged my girls to bring their friends home.
“He looked like a typical teenager – skinny, tall, wearing a hoodie – and didn’t say very much. I didn’t really take too much notice of him to be truthful.”
Later, Karen was surprised to see the boy had sent her a Facebook friend request. She decided to accept and explains: “Maybe I was just being a nosy mum. Amie was spending time with him and his friends, and I just wanted to keep an eye on things.”
And lucky she did, because what she discovered was worrying. “I was pretty concerned by some of the posts on his page – lots of pictures of people smoking cannabis,” Karen reveals.
So, when Amie came home one day and said that she’d had a fight with this boy and they were no longer friends, naturally, Karen was relieved.
“Call it mother’s instinct but I knew this boy was someone I didn’t want around my young daughter,” she says.
But just when Karen thought she’d seen the last of him, he turned their lives upside down.
“I remember it so clearly – it was the day before Amie’s 15th birthday,” she recalls.
“There was a knock on my door and I was startled to see a police officer.
“At first, I was so shocked, I thought it was a prank, then the officer said this boy’s mother was claiming I’d sent sexual pictures of myself to him on Facebook!”
But despite her denying the outrageous claims, the police insisted on going through Karen’s phone and Facebook account.
“Of course he had not received any pictures of me. I hadn’t sent him any,” she says.
“I couldn’t understand why this boy was lying. I was so upset and angry.”
The torment didn’t end there and days later Karen received a message from a close friend who revealed that the boy was telling people they’d had a sexual relationship. With the rumours spreading, Karen’s Facebook was flooded with abusive messages.
Distraught, Karen couldn’t understand why this boy was targeting her with these lies, until Amie confessed that he was spreading vicious rumours to get back at her.
“She told me her friends were calling me a paedophile,” a still shaken Karen says.
“It was mortifying. I couldn’t believe someone could be so wicked.”
But with some believing the lies, Karen was bombarded with hate and outrage. “People would bang on my door late at night. I was called a ‘kiddie fiddler’ and ‘paedophile’,” she says.
“My car was scratched and the wing mirrors broken off. One morning, I came out of my house and my car was completely covered in toilet paper.”
Without hard evidence of who had caused the damage the police couldn’t help.
“I was the victim and I don’t feel like the police took me seriously at all. Walking down the street and being called a paedophile is horrific,” she says.
In fact, claims by the boy’s mother that her son had been at the house in just his boxers saw Karen arrested and her house searched by the police. She was charged with four counts of sexual activity with a minor and kept overnight. If found guilty, Karen faced four years in jail, but the mum of two was determined to maintain her innocence.
“It wasn’t even an option – I was never ever going to plead guilty to something I hadn’t done,” she says. “I was innocent. I just had to believe the jury would see the truth through
all the lies.”
In 2015, the case went to Newport Crown Court in Newport, South Wales, where Karen had to stand trial while her ‘victim’ gave evidence via video link. Shockingly, there was not one shred of evidence to prove the boy’s claims. And thankfully, after just three hours, the jury cleared Karen of all four counts of sexual activity. But even though her name was cleared, the lies had already done their damage. “My girls and I have suffered emotional turmoil,” she says.
“I couldn’t even go to parents’ evening because of all the awkward looks and scowls from people.
“I had to leave a job I loved because of all the stress.”
After everything Karen has been through, she doesn’t feel comfortable having her daughters’ friends over anymore. “I no longer feel safe in my own home with a stranger,” she adds.
“Even though I was cleared in court I still live with the stigma and daily abuse from people who believe the terrible lies.
“I still don’t understand why he went to such lengths to cause me misery and I will never know. But what I’ve tried to teach my daughters is that the truth always prevails.”
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