South Yorkshire Police stormed Nigel Lang's home address by mistake and was wrongly arrested for downloading sick child abuse images - something he never did.
"People who knew me well, my best friends, they knew I didn’t do it. They knew what type of guy I am,” he told BuzzFeed.
The information the force had been passed to them was wrong. An extra digit was added to an IP address of a computer flagged up in an online paedophilia investigation led by Hertfordshire Police.
The 49-year-old dad of two was taken in for questioning and then bailed back in 2011
The hell ensued after his arrest and Nigel was suspended from his job working for Sheffield Council on their teenage drug recovery team.
He was also forced to move out of the family home and when social workers stopped him seeing his son unsupervised.
Six years after his ordeal began and after a lengthy legal battle, Nigel was awarded £60,000 in compensation.
He described the experience as the 'most horrendous and horrific time of my life' and said it was 'heartbreaking' to be separated from his child.
Nigel said: "People who only knew me a bit, didn’t know me that well, they became funny. ‘No smoke without fire.’ I was afraid to take our son to nursery; I became a recluse."
“I was accused of the thing that I most despised,” Nigel added.
“One of the hardest things was going home to tell my 78-year-old mum. It was devastating for her. I had to tell her gently – I didn’t want her to have a heart attack.”
His relationships with his partner and their son suffered. “I love her,” he said of his partner. “But she had to look after our boy – I was really depressed. This was on my mind 24/7, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.
“The most horrific thing is that your life is turned upside down. There’s just no hope,” he said. “We might have had more kids, but with all that was happening that just went out the window.”
Their son, meanwhile, suddenly saw his father as unreliable, Lang said, and would cry, not understanding why he had disappeared and couldn’t come home for three weeks.
He remembers his young son asking: “‘Why can’t Daddy come home?’ That brought me to f****** tears."
Nigel has another son, who was around 21 at the time of the arrest. “He had to deal with people talking about his old man, this and that. It affects everyone, not just you,” he said.
It took three weeks for police to search the computers seized at his address.
Nothing had been found on the computers, and Nigel was free to collect them. He was completely innocent, as he had always maintained.
Before his arrest, Nigel said, he had no history of mental health problems, but he is now on antidepressants and has been diagnosed with PTSD. He is due to begin treatment later this year.
South Yorkshire police said they were unable to investigate what had happened and insisted: "There is nothing that the police have done which should not have been done."
But a statement from Hertfordshire police said: “The constabulary made an early admission of the mistake once it had been identified and would like to apologise again for the wrongful arrest and further impact caused.
“It was an administrative error which led to this occurring and lessons have been learnt to help prevent this happening again.
“This man was completely innocent and compensation has now rightfully been settled.”
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