A PENSIONER whose life was made 'hell' by false sex abuse allegations has said people in his position should remain anonymous until proven guilty.

Basil Williams was left feeling suicidal after being ostracised by people who assumed he was guilty of the historic offences.

Speaking for the first time since being acquitted of all charges, the 82-year-old said the identity of people accused of such crimes should not be disclosed to avoid causing the same suffering he endured.

He said: “It’s been hell, pure hell, thinking about what other people think about me all the time and feeling absolutely terrible that anyone may think that I could do that. It hurts to think that someone could think that of me.

“At my age, it could have put me in a box. I could have easily died. I do feel free for the first time.”

The former second-hand dealer who ran several shops in Oxford battled chilling nightmares after police called just over three years ago to reveal a woman had claimed he abused her when she was a teenager in the 1980s and ‘90s.

He said he was stunned when hearing the accusations and always vehemently denied gross indecency with a child, five counts of indecent assault and three counts of rape.

But once news of the allegations emerged, many in the community turned on him, branding him a paedophile months before his case ever reached trial.

A friend refused to speak to him, and his car was scratched and scored on one occasion, Mr Williams claimed.

The pensioner, who was born in the city and grew up in Rose Hill, added: “I thought my life was over. I thought that was the end of me. I did not know if I was coming or going. I could not get dressed. I was terrified to go out.

“It was just a nightmare, two-and-a-half years of it. I couldn’t stop worrying. I got the dirty looks from people. People saying ‘there must be something in it’. ‘There’s no smoke without fire’ people would say.

“I knew I was innocent right from the word go but I lost all the support I had. I could not be myself and the loneliness was getting the better of me.”

Mr Williams said the allegations and chattering in the community drove him to contemplate suicide.

He attended a voluntary police interview and received a postal requisition a few months later, informing him he had been charged and needed to appear before magistrates.

Pleading not guilty, he stood trial but jurors were unable to reach verdicts for any of the charges and a retrial was ordered.

The jury again failed to reach verdicts during a second trial in July 2015, but prosecutors decided against a third retrial and offered no evidence – leaving the judge to enter not guilty verdicts against all charges earlier this year.

A Thames and Chiltern CPS spokesperson said it had been ‘satisfied’ there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and believed it was in the public interest to prosecute, adding: “The prosecution will not seek a third trial unless there are exceptional circumstances. In this case, there was no jury interference and no other additional evidence, which had recently come to light, which was not available earlier."

Finally gaining the courage to speak out, Mr Williams said he felt relieved when he finally walked out of the court knowing he would not stand trial again, adding: “I still think sometimes, the case is not over with and it’s going to start again. I get paranoid about it.

“It made me feel like everyone was out to get me no matter what. I felt the world was against me. It was terrible. I would get up in the morning and think ‘what’s the point?’”

Mr Williams, who believes his identity should not have been publicly disclosed, also said officers should have quizzed the woman further, adding: “I just hope that no one else has to go through what I have had to go through if they are innocent.”

Thames Valley Police spokesman Jack Abell said officers at its child abuse investigation unit conducted a ‘thorough and proportionate investigation’.

As a younger man, Mr Williams spent several years in prison following a troubled youth. All of the offences, which included handling stolen property, were unrelated to the recent allegations, and his last stint in jail was in the 1980s.

After this point he vowed to turn his life around, taking up drawing and painting as well as opening second hand furniture shops in St Clement's and Headington.

Stuart Matthews, co-founder of Reeds Solicitors’ which represented Mr Williams, said he was concerned the country was in the midst of a ‘hysteria’ surrounding allegations of sexual offences.

The issue of whether those accused when people are accused of sexual offences when not guilty of anything has been in the spotlight in recent years, most notably involving Cliff Richards.

However, charities such as the NSPCC and other campaigners said by naming people it encourages other victims to come forward - such as in the case of Max Clifford.

But Mr Matthews said: “It seems to be, the premise is believe the complainant at all costs. If you have been accused of something like that and you have not committed the offence, it must be incredibly traumatic.

“Sometimes the state does it’s job but surely if 12 people cannot be satisfied that someone is guilty at that point, really, it should let it go."