Here, Dan Jones 31, tells the story in his own words.
￼Smacking the golf ball, I scrunched my eyes shut and hoped for the best.
On a first date with Sarah, she’d already shown me up.
‘I used to do golf lessons,’ she giggled.
Both 24, it was 2011 and we worked at Canberra Airport – me as a kennel hand for the police and Sarah as ground crew. It didn’t take me long to fall hard.
So when Sarah started chatting about her dream wedding a month into our relationship, I wasn’t at all put off.
Buying the sparkling Tiffany diamond ring she loved, I shared my plans to propose with my parents, Michelle and Ian.
‘She’s a lovely girl, but you don’t want to rush into anything,’ Mum said, gently.
Why not? I thought. When you know, you know...
So, just seven months after our first date, I got down on one knee.
‘Will you marry me?’ I asked.
‘Thank you, it’s beautiful – the exact one I wanted,’ she said.
I’d already saved $30,000 for the deposit for a house and land package, but Sarah wanted to help out too.
‘Just contribute what you can,’ I said.
We were getting married after all – what was mine, was hers. So while she saved $10,000, we moved in with Mum and Dad.
Quickly, we all realised how clumsy and accident prone our Sarah was.
‘Let me have a go,’ she’d insist when I’d ride my skateboard.
Sure enough, she’d come off straight away.
‘Typical me!’ she’d joke, standing up and dusting herself off.
We’d been together just over a year when Sarah got a job in admin at a police station.
At work one day, my phone buzzed.
‘I had a dizzy spell,’ Sarah said.
She’d fainted in the hallway, landing on her wrist.
Thankfully, Mum had driven her to hospital where her wrist was put in plaster.
Another time, I pulled open the screen door and it swung back and hit Sarah in the face.
It was an accident, but I felt terrible, especially when a little red mark bloomed on her pale skin and turned into a bruise. Sarah took it in her stride though, laughing as she told Mum and Dad.
Then, in April 2013, we got the keys to our new house.
Before Dad and I started lugging our furniture in, Sarah pulled us aside.
Apparently, one of the cops at her station wanted to have a ‘chat’ with me. That’s odd, I thought.
‘I’ve had to explain why I keep hurting myself – they think there’s something more to it,’ Sarah said. ‘They’re just being overprotective,’ she smiled.
But once at the station, the coppers told me they were applying for an AVO on Sarah’s behalf against me. I was in complete shock.
We’re moving into our new house today, I thought. And I’d never laid a finger on her – I wouldn’t!
Back home, Sarah insisted it was a misunderstanding.
‘I’ll straighten it out,’ she promised. And I believed her.
Over the next few weeks, the police rapped on the door with the court order.
‘If you don’t answer, they can’t serve it to you,’ Sarah said.
I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t jumping up and down to correct the mistake.
Out with a mate a couple of months later, Sarah rang.
While she’d been moving a futon to give to my brother Andrew, our dog, Odin, had jumped on the mattress, causing it to spring back and break her nose. At hospital the police had questioned her.
‘I didn’t want anyone to think you’d hurt me, so I told them I fell off my motorbike,’ she said. Why would she lie? I wondered.
To make matters worse, her phone lit up at all hours with texts from a male colleague.
By the November, I’d had a gutful. ‘Are you cheating on me?’ I confronted her.
Unable to meet my eye, the answer was clear. I’m done, I thought, heartbroken.
I knew Sarah had nowhere to go, so I moved back in with my parents. The plan was to sell the house and split the proceeds in half.
I’d got a new job as a prison guard and dog handler, so I tried to focus on that.
But leaving work on December 23, my car was suddenly surrounded by police.
‘You’re under arrest,’ an officer announced, as I was put in handcuffs.
As they rattled off the accusations, I felt sick.
Twenty-four assault charges and one count of sexual intercourse without consent.
Every bruise and mark ‘clumsy’ Sarah had sustained, she’d pinned on me. She’d said I hurt her wrist in a heated argument.
The screen door had become a book I’d thrown in her face before driving my right elbow into her eye. And, again, she said it was me who’d made her concoct the lie about falling off the motorbike after I’d punched her.
Why is she lying? I thought, bewildered. And how could I prove it?
The mud stuck and news of my alleged ‘crimes’ got back to my work. Losing my job, I was distraught.
Released on strict bail conditions, I had to be supervised by Mum and Dad 24 hours a day, not allowed to even step past the mailbox without one of them.
Three months later, my sister-in-law Amy visited with my baby nephew Hunter and took some photos of him on my lap.
An hour later, 10 police officers rushed into my parents’ yard. Cuffed again, I was shocked to be under arrest.
Even though I’d been trapped inside my parents’ home that morning, Sarah said I’d brutally raped her and slammed her head against a wall, before hosing her down in the yard. I’m no rapist, I thought, in a panic. But I was thrown into a maximum security jail.
As a prison guard – a screw to the inmates – I was seen as worse than a paedophile in the prison pecking order.
If the prisoners find out who I am I’ll be beaten within an inch of my life. Or worse... I panicked. Every night, I cried myself to sleep.
While I was inside, Sarah kept hurling allegations at my family. She even accused my gentle dad, who’d loved Sarah like his own daughter, of strangling her to try to make her withdraw the charges against me.
Then, four months later, all the charges against me were dropped and I was released.
When my parents picked me up, Dad was in tears.
Later, Sarah was charged with making false accusations and public mischief.
I was told that, smelling a rat, an incredible detective, Leesa Alexander, had finally unravelled her lies.
Last November, Sarah Jane Parkinson, 28, appeared at ACT Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty.
The court heard that Sarah had callously staged a fake rape scene.
Knocking over a peg basket, she’d smashed her own head with a brick and planted a condom wrapper before calling Triple-0.
‘Help,’ she groaned when police arrived.
Trent Hickey, for the department of prosecutions, told Magistrate Beth Campbell, ‘Every false allegation of domestic violence and rape increases the plight of genuine victims who have been affected by those crimes.’
He added that Sarah was driven by greed and a desire to gain the house we’d purchased together, and her lack of apology suggested she felt no remorse.
In January this year, Sarah was sentenced to three years and one month in jail with two years’ non-parole. It had taken four years to clear my name.
By now, my beloved parents had re-mortgaged their home and spent $680,000 fighting my case.
Heartbreakingly, their 32-year marriage had crumbled under the strain.
Sarah broke my heart and tried to vilify me and my family. But by crying wolf, she did a terrible disservice to real victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Police spent an estimated 900 hours investigating her multiple false allegations, diverting public resources. And horrifyingly, I found out she’d falsely accused someone of sexual assault before.
Now 31, I’m living in Western Australia – Mum’s even come over here too.
And I’ve moved on with an incredible new woman. If I’m having a bad day, she’ll write me a note covered in love hearts and tuck it in my lunch box.
‘If I had to go through what I have to meet you, I’d do it 10 times over,’ I tell her.
Still, I’m not the man I once was. It’ll take time for the emotional scars to heal.
To help Dan’s parents, Ian and Michelle, get back on their feet, visit gofundme.com/47bx5q
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