I’d enjoyed a raunchy night in with my girlfriend, but just hours later the police came knocking. How could I prove my innocence?
By Colin Palin, 56, from Liverpool
As I pushed open the pub door, I glanced straight behind the bar. My eyes met Emma’s and I gave her a wide grin.
“I was hoping you’d be working tonight,” I smiled.
“Nice to see you too, pint of your usual?” she beamed back.
“Of course,” I replied.
I’d been drinking in Emma’s pub for years. The ale was good, and the crowd was friendly.
But there was no doubt about it… she was my favourite thing about the venue.
I’d had my eye on her for ages, but I’d never got up the courage to go beyond a friendly flirtation.
Emma was 26 years younger than me. Why would she fancy an old timer like me?
However, that night with a bit of Dutch courage I decided to try my luck.
“What would you say if I asked you for your number?” I said, sidling over to where Emma was cleaning the glasses.
“I thought you’d never ask,” she replied.
I tried to play it cool as I tapped her number into my mobile. Whether I’d ever have the guts to use it was another matter…
It was a few weeks before I dared to send Emma a text. For months we messaged backwards and forwards.
Soon though, romance blossomed, and we started seeing each other. The relationship wasn’t always easy. After all, Emma hadn’t long split with her husband.
But being with her gave me a new lease of life. We loved socialising and soon we established a close group of mates.
Then, one night we were having a get together round at Emma’s flat in Linacre Road.
“Do you know Zinzi?” Emma said, bringing a friend over to say hello.
“I don’t think so, nice to meet you,” I replied. “Let me get you a drink.”
I didn’t spend much time talking to Zinzi that night. But, as the early hours approached, she was one of the last people standing.
Swaying on her feet, Emma wandered over and grabbed my hand.
“I’ve got an idea… a naughty idea…” she whispered in my ear.
“I like the sound of that,” I said.
“How about we invite Zinzi upstairs with us?” she cooed, raising one eyebrow suggestively.
We’d never done anything like that before. It was typical of Emma though – she had a wild sense of adventure.
And, after a few drinks, it sounded like fun. So before long all three of us ended up in bed, fooling around between the sheets.
“I’m a lucky man,” I said to Emma the next morning, once Zinzi had gone home.
Being with her was certainly broadening my horizons! We didn’t really see much of Zinzi for a while after that.
Then, in March last year, Emma was throwing a 12th birthday party for her daughter Megan*.
“You will be there, won’t you?” she asked me.
“You’ll have a flat full of kids, it’s not really my cup of tea,” I said.
“There’ll be grown-ups there too, I promise,” she teased.
I made my excuses though. I could think of better ways to spend my afternoon than surrounded by screaming children.
Instead, I made a cuppa at home and put my feet up in front of the telly. Throughout the afternoon my phone kept beeping though.
It was Emma, practically begging me to come along to this silly party. Then at 10.30pm she text again.
The kids are in bed now, the coast is clear, she typed.
So, I relented and set off on the 20 minute walk round to hers.
As Emma said, the children had been tucked up to sleep and all the adults were enjoying a few drinks. Zinzi was there too.
And, as the party wound down, Emma made it clear she was up for a repeat of last time.
“You will stay over Zinzi, won’t you,” she asked, giving me a cheeky smile too.
By 2am all three of us were up in the bedroom again. We didn’t take things too far. We just fooled around like last time, giggling amongst ourselves.
But after a couple of hours I decided I’d had enough.
Three in a bed isn’t the most comfortable combination. I fancied a good night’s kip in my own bed, with no-one else to hog the duvet.
I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, and said goodbye to Emma and Zinzi before walking the 20 minutes home.
I hadn’t been back long when my mobile rang. It was Emma’s mum, and I immediately thought the worst.
Has something happened to Emma?
It was bad news, but not what I was expecting…
“Did you rape Zinzi?” Emma’s mum blurted out.
“What are you talking about? Where’s this come from?” I asked. That had really thrown me.
“I’ve just had a call from Emma and she said you did,” her mum insisted.
I ended up hanging up the phone, out of sheer confusion and frustration.
What a disgusting thing to joke about!
Then the phone rang again, this time from a withheld number. I knew it would be Emma’s mum again.
“Hello, it’s Colin the rapist,” I said, dripping with sarcasm.
But it wasn’t Emma’s mum… it was the police.
“There’s been an allegation made against you,” the officer on the line explained.
“I don’t know where this has come from,” I said, panic rising.
“Well we’re investigating and we’ll be in touch,” the officer said.
I knew this had to be about Emma and Zinzi. But it didn’t make sense. We’d gone to bed consensually – nothing had happened to upset her.
That night I barely slept a wink. In the morning I resolved to get to the bottom of things, so I phoned the police myself.
I thought if I explained my version of events the misunderstanding would soon be put to bed.
But moments after I left a message for the investigating officer to call me back, there was a knock at the door.
I opened it to find five police officers standing outside.
“We’re arresting you on suspicion of sexual assault,” I was told, before being led out to a waiting police car.
Down at the station, my DNA and fingerprints were taken, and my phone was seized for checks too.
Then I was banged up in a cell for six hours before being interviewed. That’s when the officer read out Zinzi’s statement against me.
“She’s told us you went back to the flat later that night, and sexually assaulted her while Emma was in another room,” the detective told me, studying my face for the smallest flicker of a reaction.
“That’s all lies,” I uttered, bursting into tears with shock.
“Well, what did you do?” I was asked.
“I went home and stayed there, honestly,” I insisted.
Of course I knew I was telling the truth. But I couldn’t escape a terrifying thought.
What if the police don’t believe me?
Later that day I was released on bail while the investigation continued.
Desperate to do something to help, I retraced my steps to look for CCTV cameras along the route I took home.
I knew the videotapes would prove the truth. Plus, Emma had been there too. Surely she’ll back me up.
The police kept my phone, so I didn’t speak to Emma until she came round the next day. As soon as I opened the door, she started crying.
“I lied to the police,” she confessed, tears running down her face. “Zinzi pressured me into backing up her story.”
“Why would you do that?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It was stupid and I’m so sorry. But I’m going to tell the police the truth,” she promised before she left.
How could my own girlfriend have betrayed me?
The days that followed were a blur. I couldn’t help but imagine being banged up in jail, or trying to convince a judge I wasn’t lying.
I lived in fear of my friends and neighbours finding out what I’d been accused of too.
Zinzi could have told anyone the same sick story.
I couldn’t even confide in my family. My 85-year-old mum would have been so worried about me.
Then, weeks later an official looking letter dropped through the door.
My hands shook as I read it. The police were officially dropping the investigation – I was in the clear.
The relief was short-lived though. The officers might have believed me, but what if others didn’t. People always think there’s no smoke without fire.
Meanwhile, Emma couldn’t apologise enough for her role in this whole mess. I agreed to give our relationship another go, and we moved away for a fresh start.
But then, just three weeks later she left me. When a letter with her name on it arrived, I couldn’t resist opening it.
That’s when I discovered she’d been charged with perverting the course of justice. She’d be facing court for backing up Zinzi, who’d been charged too.
Until then I’d still believed Emma’s version of events – that Zinzi had pressured her into lying.
But why would she be charged if that was true?
Then Emma pleaded guilty to the offence, and I knew I couldn’t trust anything she’d told me. She wouldn’t admit it if it hadn’t been her fault.
In May this year I went to court to give evidence against Zinzi, who had denied the crime.
The court heard how she’d curled up on a sofa, clutching a teddy and sobbed as she made up her cruel lies to the police.
She was found guilty too and, on Tuesday June 30 at Bournemouth Crown Court, both women were jailed.
Zinzile Ademuni-Odeke, 29, was sent down for 18 months, while Emma Riche-Webber, 30, was given an eight month prison sentence.
It’s bittersweet for me. Zinzi deserves prison, but Emma’s wicked betrayal still rips my heart apart.
I don’t know how I’ll trust another woman again.
I loved Emma. I thought she was adventurous, a free spirit – but she was nothing more than a calculated liar.