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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Howfield Manor manager David Sharma's anger after being wrongly accused of being a peeping tom

11 January 2014
by Alex Claridge

An innocent man says his life was thrown into turmoil after he was falsely accused of being a peeping tom.

Hotelier David Sharma, who runs Howfield Manor, in Chartham Hatch, was arrested and thrown in a cell after a woman told police he had set up cameras in the ladies’ toilets.

Police have now admitted there was no evidence against the 47-year-old and have dropped their investigation.

David Sharma has been cleared of voyeurism

David Sharma has been cleared of voyeurism

But Mr Sharma is furious he came under suspicion and is unhappy at police methods.

Six officers turned up at the three-star hotel just off the A28, while his shocked wife and daughters returned to their house in Raymond Avenue, Canterbury, to find four officers searching the property.

Amazingly, while he languished in a cell at the police station in Old Dover Road, the hotel’s CCTV system recorded officers sent to search the building sitting drinking coffee and playing with their mobile phones.

Mr Sharma, who has run the hotel since 2008, said: “I was shocked and angry by these allegations and they threw my life into turmoil.

“I could not concentrate on my work and my kids were very upset.

“There was not a shred of truth about any of it. I have no idea why anyone would want to make this up.”

Acting on the say-so of one woman, five uniformed officers and a detective descended on the hotel on September 9.

They searched every inch of it and removed phones, dvds, computers, hard drives and a camera.

More digital equipment – much of it belonging to Mr Sharma’s wife Catherine, 47 – was removed from the family home.

Mr Sharma was told he was being arrested for voyeurism. The police’s custody record states a woman had claimed “she was secretly recorded using toilet at hotel by DP [detained person].”

Police enjoyed cups of coffer after raiding David Sharma's office at Howfield Manor Hotel

Police enjoyed cups of coffee after raiding David Sharma's office at Howfield Manor Hotel

He was taken to Canterbury police station and interrogated for several hours.

“I was surprised by the police interview,” Mr Sharma said. “The questions about the actual allegations were very limited.

“Once I’d told them there was no truth to the allegations and that I would never have cameras in the toilets, the questions turned to hotel policies. I suppose they had to make the interview seem worthwhile.

“I’m also surprised it took six burly policemen and a large van to remove the equipment from the hotel. When I later picked it up from the police station, I took it back to the hotel on a bus.”

Mr Sharma was bailed to reappear at the police station on December 3 – the day he expected to be cleared of the allegations.

“There was not a shred of truth about any of it. I have no idea why anyone would want to make this up” - David Sharma

But instead he received a letter on November 30 informing him that his new bail date would be February 3.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “What had they been doing all this time?”

Then, at the end of December, Mr Sharma finally received the news that the investigation had been dropped because of “insufficient evidence”.

Mr Sharma said: “Although I knew I was totally innocent, it was still a relief.

“But as far as the police were concerned, it appeared to be a case of guilty until proven innocent.

"It seemed to be a case where a single statement could lead to a chain of events where I had to defend my innocence against an organisation intent on establishing guilt.”

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