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OBE reject hoax sparks Owusu Guardian writ

Founder of the Society of Black Architects, Elsie Owusu OBE, is suing the Guardian newspaper after falling victim to a malicious hoax.

Owusu is seeking a libel payout from the paper after it printed a forged letter that claimed she planned to reject her OBE.

The letter, published on 2 December, cited a protest against the 'jingoistic' press reaction to England's rugby victory and the 'vainglorious parade [which] is exclusive of the whole ethnic-minority population of this island and redolent of AngloSaxon imperialism.

'Unless I am persuaded that my OBE is a symbol of hope for young black women, I shall shortly be returning it, ' the fraudster wrote.

Owusu, awarded the OBE in the Queen's birthday honours list in June, told the AJ she was furious at the hoax and has begun a libel action. She was very proud to earn the honour, she said, and there was no question of her sending it back.

'It was complete and utter nonsense, ' said Owusu, who was out of the country when the letter was sent. 'I was supposed to object to the parade, but I don't know the difference between a football and a rugby ball.'

Owusu has seen the letter in its original form, prior to editing, which she described as 'semi-literate'.

'They had to completely edit it to put it into proper English, ' she said. 'I'm so upset that they even thought I could write like that.'

The hoaxer also forged a letter to the National Trust, declaring her intention to resign from her post on its ruling council.

The perpetrator's identity remains a mystery. But Owusu's lawyer, Simon Smith, suggested three possibilities: a British National Party sympathiser, a black political extremist using Owusu's name to further their cause, or someone known to her acting out a grudge.

'Unfortunately, it's someone who knows my signature, ' Owusu said. 'It's most unnerving.'

Libel specialist Smith said he believed his client had a good case.

The letter has 'damaged her reputation, suggesting she had hypocritically accepted the honour and expressed deeply held antiBritish views', he said. As a result she has received 'nasty, rascist hatemail' and internet postings 'threatening her physical safety'.

Smith added he expected the paper to offer an out-of-court settlement.

At a high court hearing on Friday, Owusu made British legal history as the judge granted an injunction against the 'person or persons unknown' impersonating her. She has also informed the police.

A spokeswoman for the Guardian said it had printed the letter 'in good faith'. 'We are discussing with her advisers how best to rectify this, ' she added

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