A WOMAN who has spent more than two years trying to clear her name after being falsely accused of fraud and theft has spoken for the first time of her living hell.

Nicola Arch, 32, of Toadsmoor Road, Brimscombe had her wedding day ruined as a result of the trial, was unable to go on honeymoon, was shunned in the street and has had to seek medication from her doctor.

She told the SNJ how she was working at Chalford Hill Post Office in October 2000 when money started going missing.

Despite the fact it now appears the cash was lost due to an administrative error Nicola found herself caught up in a nightmare, accused of two counts of theft and a further two charges of false accounting.

At a hearing in Bristol Crown Court on April 14 the theft charges were finally dropped and Nicola was found not guilty of the fraud charges.

"I was dismissed from my job when all the accusations started coming out in 2000," she said. "But I wasn't charged until September 2001."

The two-and-a-half year trauma that followed led Nicola to seek medication from her doctor to relieve the stress and she said she was shunned by people she had considered to be her friends. "It's been an absolute nightmare," she said.

"I knew I was innocent from the start but you carry something like this with you and people treat you differently.

"You're tainted immediately and I was thought of as guilty. "When I went out some people wouldn't speak to me even though I hadn't done anything wrong. "It felt like it would stick forever."

Nicola's wedding day was ruined, she said, because of the court appearance hanging over her and she felt in no mood to celebrate.

"We went into the registry office in Stroud for 20 minutes, got married, came home and watched Emmerdale," she said. "We didn't go on a honeymoon because I didn't feel I could enjoy myself with all that was going on.

"I didn't have the spirit to do anything else." "You can't live a normal life when you're on bail. The next court appearance is always just around the corner."

The strain has left Nicola physically and emotionally drained. "I've been on medication more than a year because of this," she said.

"I can't describe what it was like to find myself in that situation." "I still wake up in the morning feeling physically sick and have to remind myself it's over."

"I'll never be the same person, once something this serious happens to you it changes you." "I'm trying to get life back to normal but I've forgotten what normal is."

Nicola said the ordeal has helped her realise who her real friends are. She is extremely grateful for the faith her new employers have had in her and the support of her lawyer.

"They never doubted my word from the start," she said. When she heard the final verdict in Bristol relief just washed over her. "I was so relieved it was all over," she said. "But it's going to take a long time to really sink in."