Pete Townshend considered committing suicide after he was falsely accused of being a paedophile.
The Who guitarist went through a terrible ordeal in 2003 when police searched his home for illegal materials and he was arrested as part of a crackdown against child pornography known as Operation Ore.
Nothing incriminating was ever found at his house or on his computers, but he admitted he had once paid a $7 charge on an internet site with a button which read “click here for child pornography” when conducting online research about child abuse for the band’s Double-O charity.
He had immediately cancelled the charge, but the resulting media storm and police caution for accessing the website left him feeling suicidal.
In his new book, Who I Am, Townshend writes: “If I’d had a gun, I would have shot myself, just to escape the lynching.”
The My Generation musician could have gone to court to clear his name, but instead remained silent, which confused many people.
He added to The Times: “I think I was exhausted. The police gave me half an hour to make a decision about whether to go to court or not. My lawyers were as surprised as I was, because everyone thought I would be let off. And I thought if it went to court, they would f***ing rip me apart. They’ll just rip me apart.”
The 67-year-old star’s remaining living bandmate, Roger Daltrey, has always stood by him, as has his partner Rachel Fuller and his three children, but at the time Townshend thought his whole life would cave in.
He added: “A journalist came to the door and I told him, ‘I’m f***ed.’ He said, ‘No, you’ll be alright.’ ‘How?’ it was the subject of the day and it really did feel like a lynching, because there was no sense of ‘the truth will out’. I’ve had the misfortune to read online that I’m a paedophile because I’ve got a big nose.”
Townshend also says his desire to help victims of sexual abuse stems from an incident when he used to live with his grandmother Denny, who was a woman of questionable moral value, when he was a child.
He added: “She wouldn’t let me have a lock on the door, which was terrifying. She had one guy that looked like Adolf Hitler, with a little moustache, his hair brushed to the side and a withered arm.
“He would sit me on his lap and I had to call him uncle. I don’t want to say I was sexually abused just because it’s convenient to explain why I’m so… complicated, but I also don’t want to deny that what happened, did happen. Not that I was brutally raped, but something very creepy was going on.”