An innocent father-of-four was arrested on suspicion of raping a six-year-old girl in South Africa in a case of mistaken identity, his lawyers say.
Godfrey Tshuma, 61, who lives in South Ockendon, Essex, was held in prison overnight and told he faced extradition before a judge threw the case out.
Mr Tshuma, originally from Zimbabwe, said he has only been to South Africa once for a few hours in transit and could not have committed the rape, an offence which carries a possible life sentence.
He shares the same name as the wanted paedophile but has a different date of birth and a police fingerprints check proved he was not the man they were looking for, his lawyers said.
Mr Tshuma said: “I have been through a living nightmare and I am so relieved I have been cleared.
“Despite this, I feel like it has ruined my life. People look at me differently as though they think there may have been some truth to the allegations even though it is not true. People think there is no smoke without fire.”
Mr Tshuma was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard’s extradition unit on February 5 after a 6am knock on his door as he got ready to take his wife to work.
“I had the shock of my life when they said I had an extradition warrant out for my arrest,” he said.
“I asked them what it was for and they said I was being arrested for the rape of a six-year-old girl in South Africa.
“It was bad enough that I had, to all intents and purposes, never been to South Africa, but to be accused of such a horrendous crime was shocking.”
Mr Tshuma said he “felt numb” and was in a “state of shock”, while his wife started “screaming and crying in disbelief”.
“It was the worst moment of my life. To be accused of a crime like that against children was devastating and humiliating,” he continued.
“I don’t think there is a worse crime to be accused of than that.”
Mr Tshuma said he and his wife tried to explain to officers they had got the wrong man, even showing his passport to prove he was born the following year.
“They were really aggressive and just told me to get dressed as they were taking me away. They threatened to taser me if I did not comply with their order,” he said.
“They were treating me like a rapist and I felt violated.”
Mr Tshuma was told he would be taken to Westminster Magistrates Court to be extradited and was handed details of the crime he was accused of committing as he lay in a cell in Bethnal Green police station.
“I thought I wouldn’t see my wife or children ever again,” he said.
“It is well known that South African prisons are violent places, especially towards people accused of the type of crime that I was supposed to have done. I was terrified that I would end up murdered in an African prison.”
A judge granted him bail with a curfew and electronic tag but he was first taken to Wandsworth prison, where he spent the night while his family raised a £5,000 security payment.
Lawyers at Hodge Jones & Allen said the Crown Prosecution Service was contacted to ask police to check Mr Tshuma’s fingerprints against the wanted man, which showed he was not the person they were looking for.
A judge discharged Mr Tshuma at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on February 12, ordering his costs to be paid, his security refunded and his bail conditions cancelled, a court official confirmed.
Mr Tshuma said he is still concerned about leaving the country while an international arrest warrant is out.
Sean Caulfield, a specialist in extradition and a partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who represents him, said: “My client’s life has been devastated due to a very disappointing case of mistaken identity.
“He was accused of one of the worst possible crimes, thought he was going to be extradited to South Africa and face jail for the rest of his life. All for a crime he didn’t commit and that the South African police wanted an entirely different man for all along.
“This is one of the worst cases of mistaken identity I have ever seen and has deeply affected my client and his family.
“We will continue to fight to clear his good name and get the international arrest warrant against him rescinded.”
Scotland Yard said: “A complaint has been made and the actions taken are being reviewed.”
The force said in a statement: “A man was arrested by Met officers on behalf of South African authorities at an address in Romford on February 5 2019 after a warrant was issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a sexual offence involving the alleged rape of a minor.
“The man was taken to an east London station where he was deemed fit for detention.
“He was remanded by Westminster Magistrates’ Court on February 5 2019 and was detained at HMP Wandsworth. He was released from prison on February 6 2019.
“He was later discharged at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on February 12 2019.
“The Met continues to liaise with South African law enforcement and will assist where appropriate.”