Toronto Sun

August 25, 2001

Police probe false accuser

Woman's testimony cost innocent man 3 years in jail

By LISA LISLE -- Sun Media

OTTAWA -- The woman responsible for putting an innocent man behind bars for three years for sexual assault is now under investigation herself.

Ottawa Police opened a new file on Cathie Fordham yesterday after Jamie Nelson visited the police station and made a formal complaint against the woman who accused him of raping her five years ago.

"All I can say is that we'll be looking at it early next week," said Det. Gary Grainger, one of the officers assigned to the file.

"But I can acknowledge that there is a police investigation."

The complaint comes on the heels of the decision Thursday by the Ontario Court of Appeal to acquit the 34-year-old man of the sexual assault and forcible confinement charges that stemmed from false allegations made by Fordham.

"I can't allow her to just walk away," Nelson said of the woman who cost him his freedom. "Now we get to the accountability part of this story."

This isn't the first time Fordham has found herself being investigated for public mischief.

Fordham was convicted last summer of the same crime after she made up a story about being attacked by a resident of the Vanier Community Support Centre, where she worked.

It was that conviction that ultimately brought on Nelson's acquittal.

Fordham, who was the best friend of Nelson's common-law wife Christine Thomson, alleged that Nelson forced his way into her apartment and sexually assaulted her in February 1996. At the time, Nelson and Thomson were embroiled in a custody dispute over their son.

By November 1996, Nelson had been sentenced to 31/2 years in prison, where he tried to hang himself, only to be saved by his cellmate.

Yesterday, for the first time in five years, Nelson walked the streets of Ottawa without looking over his shoulder.

"I finally feel like I'm a free man," he said, sitting on the steps of the courthouse where he had been convicted in 1996.

Although there was nothing legally preventing the former Ottawa resident from visiting the city after his parole expired last spring, he said he never really felt safe visiting his father there.


"Of course it crossed my mind that all she had to do was see me and make a call to the police and I'd land in jail again charged with something I didn't do," Nelson said.

"That's really all she had to do last time.

He is now looking forward to meeting his accuser face-to-face on Monday, when she is expected to appear in court for sentencing on charges of uttering death threats against her ex-boyfriend.

"I don't know what to expect," he said.

"I do know that if I hold out and wait for her to apologize, I'll be a very old and very grey man."

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.