By Morwenna Blake
A conman who fooled social services into thinking he was a vulnerable 17-year-old boy before stealing from his foster carers and “destroying” the life of a charity boss with a false allegation of rape, has been jailed for four and a half years.
Salisbury Crown Court heard on Friday that Shane Peake went to Wiltshire Council for help in June this year.
He told them his name was Steven Shaw and that he had been thrown out of his home in South Yorkshire after telling his family he was gay.
In reality he was a 26-year-old man intent on conning the good Samaritans trying to help him.
The authority placed him in temporary lodgings with carers and Salisbury-based charity Rainbow Rooms UK was asked to provide him with additional support.
Rainbow Rooms founder Will Clark, 43, spent several weeks trying to help the young man but he grew suspicious about Peake’s story and questioned what he had said about his background and situation.
Peake then went to the authorities and accused the older man of rape.
Mr Clark, who lives in Salisbury with his partner of 17 years and who has been running the award-winning charity supporting young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people for six years, said his life then fell apart.
“I was destroyed,” he said. “I was devastated and I couldn't believe what was being said about me.”
“I went to pieces, mentally and physically.”
Although police told him within days that no evidence had been found to support the rape claim and no charges would be brought against him, Mr Clark faced an agonizing three-month wait for the case to come to court and the facts to be made public.
He was forced to close down the charity he had devoted years to building up and became so depressed he took an overdose and ended up in hospital.
The police investigation uncovered a number of aliases used by Peake and he was arrested. Peake admitted theft, burglary, fraud and perverting the course of justice and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail.
DC Cat Isaac of Wiltshire Police said: “This case has had a massive impact on Will Clark. His life has been torn apart by Peake’s actions.”
“We hope all those people who were deceived by Peake and have suffered as a consequence will be reassured by the sentence.”