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Victim of false paedophile slurs tells of his torment

Withers, Edwin,, 2nd August 2008

A FORMER miner has told how he contemplated suicide after being hounded by rumour-mongers who branded him a paedophile.

Edwin Withers says he has suffered years of physical and mental abuse after a whispering campaign against him started eight years ago.

Since the false rumours began, his marriage has broken down and close friends have stopped talking to him.

The father-of-two is now determined to clear his name so he can finally go back to living a normal life after years of taunting.

He has the support of former Peterlee mayor Mary Cartwright, who is "disgusted" by the hate campaign. Mr Withers, 56, has needed supports and a wheelchair for 20 years and suffers with arthritis, a damaged spine, breathing difficulties, a bad heart and bleeding ulcers.

Mr Withers, who often needs to use a wheelchair to get about, said: 

"My son's friend came over one day and he overheard a conversation about someone else. He put two and two together and the next thing I know, kids in the street are scared to come near my house."

"Then I went to Peterlee's Asda, and there was a guy there shouting all kinds of stuff out."

"It then became almost everyday and I have been physically attacked despite my condition."

"I have never done anything wrong in my whole life."

"I am an honest man who worked hard down the pits before I got ill, but now I have to put up with this hell."

"I am not well, but on top of that I have been beaten up, shouted at, spat at."

"You name it and I have been through it. All I want to do now is get on with my life in peace."

"I am clinically depressed. I'm on drugs to cheer me up. I have thought of killing myself because it's a miserable way to live. I'm so lonely."

Mr Withers lived in St Mary's Close, Easington, until two years ago when he moved to Glenhurst Road in the village.

When at St Mary's Close he says the abuse was worse with shouting and swearing outside his door four or five times a night.

Coun Cartwright said: 

"I heard these disgusting rumours and I was saying it isn't true because I have know Edwin for some time."

"I couldn't understand why it was happening. He's well known in the area and is a family man with all his family in the area."

"I want Edwin to be happy and people need to know they have made a mistake."

"He is a proud man who should be allowed to get on with his life."

Despite the abuse, Mr Withers still makes daily trips out of the house to show people he has nothing to hide despite the risk of further attacks and taunts.

A spokeswoman for Durham Police confirmed Mr Withers has never had any allegations of a criminal nature made against him.

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