A war hero with post-traumatic stress disorder is suing a police force for tens of thousands of pounds after they wrongly branded him – a PAEDOPHILE.
Devastated Michael Bennett, 35, suffered vigilante attacks and was banned from seeing his girlfriend Chantal’s three young children.
Michael, a Royal Artillery gunner and soldier for nine years, suffered a breakdown after witnessing horrific atrocities while serving in Bosnia.
But his life went from bad to worse when blundering cops got him mixed up with another genuine sex offender living near his home in Nuneaton, Warks.
Warwickshire Police reported him to social services after they received a malicious phone call from a man who claimed Michael was a pervert.
Shockingly, officers did not carry out any checks before reporting Michael, who now works as a lorry driver, to the authorities last summer.
As a result, he was targeted by vigilantes who lobbed bricks at his front door and are even suspected of killing his cat.
Michael, who only received a letter of apology from the police after he begged them to investigate, says the mistake ”ruined my life”.
He said: ”It has totally ruined my life. I can’t live here anymore. I’m having to get rid of my house.
”I used to be a respected member of my community but now people walk on the other side of the road to avoid me.
”I am suing the police for compensation so I can move away from here and start my life again.
”I’m not doing this for greed, I’m doing it to clear my name. They have ruined my reputation, it’s disgusting what I was put through.”
Michael was banned from girlfriend Chantal’s home, who he had been with for six years, amid fears her daughters aged six and nine and 12-year-old son could be at risk.
Detective Inspector Shane Barnes, from the Child Protection Unit, finally wrote to Michael last week and apologised for the error.
He wrote: ”On behalf of Warwickshire Police, I would like to formally apologise to you for the distress and upset this matter has caused you and your family.
”Having checked you out on the Police National Computer, you do not have a criminal record.
”We certainly do not have any records to suggest you are a risk to children.
”To put that bluntly, we have absolutely nothing to suggest that you are, or ever have been, a paedophile.”
But Michael, who now plans to move to a new town with Chantal, is still fuming.
He said: ”After quite a few months I got a letter saying they had done a check and I had no criminal record.
”But I’m an ex-soldier and I know you have to follow protocol. It’s pathetic.
”Since I left the Army I’ve had insomnia and sleep walking and those kind of problems.
”I got diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. It has been compounded by this.”
A spokesman for Warwickshire Police said: ”We did receive a complaint from Michael Bennett.
”An internal inquiry took place and was investigated and upheld. As a result, training and advice have been provided to staff.
”Mr Bennett will be contacted in relation to his allegations of criminality.”