Cumberland News Exclusive by Sarah Newstead
Published at 10:52, Friday, 16 July 2010
Leyla Elhand Mohamed Ibrahim, 22, of Deer Park Road, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice by a Carlisle Crown Court jury on June 17.
Her claim that she was attacked in the early hours of January 4 last year 2009 on a footpath near Cavendish Terrace sparked a manhunt involving up to 40 police officers and costing £150,000.
Sentencing yesterday, Judge Paul Batty QC described the crime as “wicked” and commended the police officers who led the investigation.
Now seven months pregnant, Ibrahim will give birth in jail and could have her baby taken from her.
But her distraught mother, Sandra Allen, 53, says she will always believe her daughter is innocent.
In an emotional interview, she told The Cumberland News: “I will say with my last breath that Leyla did not do this.”
Ms Allen, a 53-year-old teaching assistant of Deer Park Road, is in talks with lawyers to appeal against the conviction.
The Cumberland News understands that grounds for appeal will centre on new evidence and further developments.
The family’s anguish is made worse because Ibrahim, a former Caldew School pupil, will give birth in September, something the jury were not told at her trial.
“They are not just punishing Leyla, they are punishing her child as well.” said Ms Allen.
She added that the baby’s father was a friend of her daughter’s for many years – she believes Leyla was just beginning to trust men again and the pregnancy was unplanned. The couple are no longer in touch.
Mrs Allen’s partner, Robert Graham, 62, along with her daughter’s brother, Taraq, 19 and sisters, Samira, 29 and Sara, 27, have also rallied to protest Leyla’s innocence.
The family are being supported by the charity Women Against Rape. Neighbours, colleagues and friends have stood by the family since Ibrahim’s conviction.
Mr Graham, a carpet fitter, said: “We would like to thank everybody and let them know how much we appreciate their respect.”
“They know Leyla,” added Ms Allen, who says the early hours of last January 4 were the worst of her life, second only to seeing her daughter led to the cells.
“I have relived every second of that evening. The fear in Leyla’s eyes was horrific. I know my children. If I thought for one second she was guilty I would have taken her to the police station myself that night.”
After being examined at the city's Cumberland Infirmary and interviewed by police, Mrs Allen claims her daughter had been without sleep for 36 hours.
“She could hardly speak when she got home. She scrubbed herself in the shower until she was practically bleeding. She forced her brother to sit in her room with her so she was not alone.”
Ibrahim told police, and later the jury, that she had been knocked unconscious for part of the time she was being attacked.
“The police expected her to know everything in sequence,” her mother said. “How could she know if she was knocked out?”
During the trial, an expert medical witness said the back of Ibrahim’s head was swollen. Another said it would be “unlikely” all the injuries on Leyla’s body were self-inflicted.
No-one, however, could say Ibrahim definitely suffered concussion.
Tim Evans, prosecuting at her trial, said she lied to “teach people a lesson” after earlier arguing with a former boyfriend and that night with friends who refused to share a taxi home.
Mrs Allen says the argument with the former boyfriend – not the father of her daughter’s child – was insignificant, a tiff over some tomatoes in a sandwich.
“My daughter was not known to the police before this, she had no psychological problems. She did not have a reason to make this up.”
Four men were detained and questioned by police in connection with Ibrahim’s story.
Speaking at the sentencing, Mr Evans said one described the intimate examinations they were subjected to as “torture” while another said he was “devastated” by the ordeal. One, who had some psychiatric history, attempted self harm.
Ms Allen claims Ibrahim discounted the image of the one man she was shown and was unaware of the three others detained until much later.
“She did not point her finger at anyone. She did not destroy anyone’s life.”
Mrs Allen said her daughter became withdrawn after that night. “She would not go out. And she would never go down that footpath again.”
The family have visited Ibrahim on remand in HMP Durham. She has found work in the prison kitchens.
“She has good days and bad days,” said her mother. “She tries to convince me she’s okay. Other days she’s just crying. If it takes us another 40 years, we will clear her name.”
Speaking through her legal team, Ibrahim, who will serve 18 months before being released on licence, said she was grateful for her family’s support.
She added: “How many more women am I going to meet in this situation? I can’t say I am guilty for something I have not done. I’m worried for the women of Carlisle because my attackers are out there.”
The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Superintendent Cath Thundercloud, said: “The most important thing to me now is to ensure that victims of sex assaults continue to call police immediately. You will be taken seriously.”