A POOLE couple who were falsely accused of child abuse have spoken out about their 14-month ordeal.

Jonny Carlos, 45, and Michelle Ingham, 32, of Canford Heath, had their two young children taken into care after being charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and cruelty to a person aged under 16 in October 2011.

But the couple, who have been together for eight years, say the child who made the allegations is a victim too.

“We have maintained throughout that she was put up to this,” said Mr Carlos.

“Just like us, she has spent the last year-and-a-half walking around with a huge weight on her shoulders.

“It’s not her fault and she is not to blame in any way.”

The couple were found not guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court last week after the collapse of the trial when the youngster admitted the allegations weren’t true.

They have proclaimed their innocence since their arrest, but became concerned for their welfare after “Chinese whispers” painted them as abusers.

“It was awful,” said Mr Carlos, who would become physically sick through the pressure of the ordeal.

“People were saying we were child abusers. We’ve been walking around with a big black cross on our backs. I wouldn’t let Shell go out on her own because I was so worried about her.”

But Ms Ingham said the most painful reactions were from people who had called themselves friends.

“We have had friends who kept their kids away from us.”

“That’s much more painful than someone we don’t know well passing on a rumour.”

Despite bad days, the couple say they were “humbled” by support from many others, including Mr Carlos’ Catholic priest.

But he reserved his highest praise for Ms Ingham, who he calls his wife.

He said: “A friend made a comment about how well I was coping, and I said, ‘Bless you, but I haven’t – I folded a year ago’.

“I owe everything to my wife. I have maintained throughout this that the only reason I am still here is because of my wife, friends, family, and our children.

“That’s how I’ve kept going. Of course, you’ve only got two choices – sink or swim.”

Ms Ingham said: “Ultimately, we knew we hadn’t done it.

“It was the children that kept me going. Of course, there were moments that I fell apart, but you just have to pick yourself up again and keep going.”