A WOMAN who sparked a major investigation after claiming she was raped as she walked home from a night out has been spared prison.

Kirstie Hodgson was told by a Teesside Crown Court judge he would neither punish nor penalise her after hearing of her fragile mental state.

The costly police probe was launched after Hodgson claimed she had been raped in Middlesbrough in the early hours of October 19, last year.

She said the attacker told her he had a knife and stole her mobile telephone, and went on to point out the location of the alleged incident.

Extensive inquiries were made to trace potential witnesses and, a day after the alleged attack, a 26-year-old man was arrested, held in custody for 18 hours, interviewed and medically examined, before being released on bail.

Forensic samples highlighted a second possible suspect and a 32-year-old man was arrested and held for two hours.

However, it became clear there were a number of discrepancies in Hodgson’s account and she was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

She admitted she had lied about the location of the alleged assault, the description of the alleged assailant and some of the details.

She maintained she had been the victim of a rape, but it had taken place in another location, in other circumstances, and the attacker was a man she knew.

The court heard yesterday that Hodgson, 19, of Wellington Street, Middlesbrough, still maintains she was sexually assaulted.

She was given a three-year conditional discharge by Judge Peter Fox, after she admitted doing acts tending or intended to pervert the course of public justice.

After the case, Detective Andy Greenwood, of Middlesbrough CID, said: “While we would always urge people who are genuine victims of a sexual assault to come forward, anyone who falsely reports such an assault should be aware that their actions can waste a massive amount of police time and resources, diverting officers away from genuine crimes.”