Leeds' "magnificent" Shirley Woodman - who changed the law for victims of rape after suing her Lotto rapist attacker - has died aged 92

Shirley Woodman’s life was rich and full. A mother of three, grandmother of four, and great-grandmother of seven, Mrs Woodman was an active member of many community groups in Roundhay, where she lived on the same road for four decades.

By Victoria Finan
Sunday, 13th February 2022, 9:24 am

After retiring following a distinguished career as a headmistress of Netherlands Avenue School in Odsal, there was no slowing down for Mrs Woodman.

A fitness enthusiast, she swam every day, was an active member of the Ramblers and conquered Yorkshire’s gruelling Three Peaks Walk shortly after her 80th birthday.

But the indomitable spirit of Mrs Woodman stretched further than her community commitments due to the darkest chapter of her life.

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The indomitable spirit of Shirley Woodman stretched further than her community commitments due to the darkest chapter of her life.

She also changed the law - and the course of justice for hundreds of victims - after being brutally attacked in broad daylight just yards from her home.

Mrs Woodman, who has died aged 92, was also known as Mrs A - the victim of Iorworth Hoare, who attempted to rape her during her lunchtime walk in Roundhay Park in 1988, when she was 59.

Hoare was imprisoned for life - but in 2004, while on day release from jail, he bought a winning lottery ticket and claimed a £7m jackpot.

When she found out, the incensed Mrs Woodman sued Hoare for damages - but he used the statute of limitations, which limits the time period after a crime in which the injured party can bring a claim forward, to weasel out of paying.

Undeterred, Mrs Woodman took the case to the House of Lords, where it was overturned - and Hoare was forced to pay out around £800,000 in legal costs as well as a £50,000 settlement to Mrs Woodman.

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Throughout the case, Mrs Woodman retained her anonymity and was only known as Mrs A. She was aided by the Yorkshire Evening Post, who together with its solicitors DLA Piper, offered to foot the bill should her case fail.

The case paved the way for hundreds of victims of historical abuse - including those of Jimmy Savile - to come forward years after the horrendous crimes against them had been perpertrated.

“She didn’t want the money, and she didn’t need the money. She gave it all away,” remembered her daughter Shelley Wolfson. “But she was magnificent. Very, very few people knew - even my brothers didn’t know the full extent of it. She was tenacious, determined, and driven.”

It was Shelley who nominated her mother for an MBE, which finally spurred Mrs Woodman to drop her anonymity in 2012 and reveal herself to the world.

“I was with her through the trauma, and I understood that she never showed anything in front of anyone else. I’m so pleased that she gave up her anonymity - she damn well deserved to be recognised for what she did,” said Ms Wolfson.

“The amount of sympathy cards that we have received as a family are testament to Mum’s legacy. She made history and she will be cited in law history and degrees for many, many years if not forever.”