Lily Gertrude Browning - fake pepper attack

July 23, 1934: A widow named Lily Browning walks into a South London police station where she tells plod a man had thrown pepper in her face and stolen her handbag earlier in the day. An investigation leads to no forensic evidence and a confession.

This article reporting this sad case appeared on the front page of the Nottingham Evening Post, September 12, 1934. There is no sexual element to this story at all but I have included it because during my trawling of historical databases while researching the current one I have found many such blatantly false and apparently pointless allegations, including from men. I found one - not included here - of a man who confessed to murdering a girl and disposing of her body. Naturally, the authorities carried out an intensive investigation, but they could find no evidence even that the victim existed.

Lily Browning appears to have been a particularly sad case because as you will see from the article, she had previously claimed to have been the victim of a similar attack, in January 1930. She appears to have had a financial motive. Obviously the authorities cannot ignore such allegations, and just as obviously they are often difficult if not impossible to tell from genuine ones, especially when they are of an historical nature. The lack of statutes of limitations in the UK and their removal in other jurisdictions coupled with the lack of meaningful sanctions against false accusers in most cases is a recipe for both increased rates of false allegations and miscarriages of justice, in particular of menís lives being destroyed by being framed capriciously for imaginary crimes.

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