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New London — A rape reported to police last month has for weeks fueled the perception of an unsafe downtown, provided fodder for a local radio talk show and led to calls for more police officers and an investigation into the department's handling of the release of information.
But on Wednesday, police closed their investigation into the complaint, saying the alleged victim had lied to investigators. Based on her new statement, the sexual act was consensual, police said.
Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard said detectives investigating the complaint had suspicions from the start about the validity of what had been described as a violent random sexual attack committed by a stranger in a downtown alleyway July 20.
Those suspicions were confirmed during a follow-up interview and a recorded statement from the complainant on Tuesday, Reichard said.
"Following several weeks of active investigation into the allegation, investigators have concluded that the facts and circumstances initially reported to police by the victim turned out to be an untrue," Reichard said in a statement. "The victim has recanted her original version of this event, changing the facts of this allegation from what was initially reported to police as a violent random sexual assault."
Reichard said a DNA test is still pending and investigators will continue to look into all aspects of the incident, but no arrests are expected. However, investigators may consult with the state's attorney's office to determine whether the woman should face criminal charges related to her false statements.
It was the delay in the release of information about the alleged sexual assault that has fueled criticism of the department and the mayor, who has called for an internal review.
Reichard said experienced investigators found deceptive information in the original version of the sexual assault complaint, in which the woman said she was raped by an extremely fat, bald black man in his 40s in an alley off Bank Street.
When questions arose, he said, there was hesitation in distributing what now turns out to be inaccurate information about the description of the perpetrator and the incident itself.
Information was leaked to the public about a sketch of the suspect that never was distributed to the public, Reichard said. That is also untrue, he said.
Reichard said there was limited cooperation from the alleged victim, and she did not provide enough information to assist a state police artist to prepare a sketch.
"The New London Police Department strives to continue to provide the public with accurate information related to crimes taking place within the city," Reichard said. "The Internal investigation into the notification process surrounding this case and the leaking of confidential police documents is ongoing."