THE family of a brain-damaged man who concocted a story about being mugged at knifepoint have issued a passionate plea for people to forgive him.
Karl Swain appeared in last week's Observer after telling police a gang of youths had robbed him of his laptop in broad daylight. He said the muggers trapped him and pressed a blade to his throat before fleeing with the £1,100 computer.
But after receiving tip-offs officers from Great Harwood CID re-interviewed Karl, who admitted selling the laptop in an Indian restaurant for £130.
He invented the story to cover his tracks after worrying that Blackburn College, from where he borrowed the laptop, would suspend him from his computing course.
Les Swain, Karl's father, told the Observer from the family home in Kipling Place, Great Harwood: "My wife and I feel so very small and wish there was a hole we could crawl into.
"We want to apologise to the police and Hyndburn residents but because of Karl's condition we can't blame him. He is feeling very guilty and embarrassed and admitted it as soon as the police came on Sunday."
Karl, 24, suffers from memory loss and only returned home in January after 15 years' gruelling treatment, needed after he fell through a disused factory roof when he was just nine.
His father, who is a full-time carer for Karl and disabled wife Rita, said he is relieved police will not press charges, but is concerned about the community's reaction.
He said: "We really do beg people to forgive Karl and watch out for him. He needs our help. He has many difficulties and we hope the public understand that."
He added that Karl's progress has been severely hampered by poor treatment from the health authorities.
Mrs Swain said: "I was devastated when I found out his story wasn't true. I broke down. Karl must have heard me and felt even worse because he vanished from the house and we only found him in the early hours of Monday. He feels so badly about it he says he wants to move away. We are pleading with people to be sympathetic."
Sergeant Dave Reddin, of Great Harwood CID, said: "We would like to reassure the public that the mugging did not happen. As a result of the press coverage and our inquiries, we have established that and can confirm no other action will be taken."