A young woman has been jailed for eight and a half years for false claims about being raped and trafficked by an Asian grooming gang, including other false claims against other men.
Eleanor Williams, 22, from Barrow-in-Furness, was convicted of nine counts of perverting the course of justice. The judge, Mr. Justice Altham, said her allegations were “complete fiction” and criticised her for showing “no significant signs of remorse”.
Her claims went viral during the lockdown in 2020 after she posted pictures of herself with bruises and a black eye on Facebook. She posted that she was beaten and made to attend “sex parties” by “evil yet clever” Asian men, mostly Pakistani business owners.
The allegations soon spread far beyond Cumbria and garnered support from more than 100,000 Facebook users. More than 151 crimes were linked to her case according to Cumbria police.
In a letter to the judge on Tuesday, Williams maintained her innocence but said she was sorry and “devastated” at how her Facebook post affected Barrow.
“I understand that it’s your job to believe the jury’s verdict and that’s OK. I know I have made some mistakes, I’m sorry. I know it’s no excuse but I was young and confused,” she wrote.
“I’m not saying I’m guilty but I know I have done wrong on some of this and I’m sorry. I’m devastated at the trouble that has been caused in Barrow. If I knew what consequences would have come from that status I never would have posted it.”
“Some community impact was foreseeable,” he said. But he said the consequences of her lies for the criminal justice system were far-reaching, adding: “There is a risk that genuine victims will be reluctant as a result of this to come forward,” the judge said.
The false allegations included three young white men, one of whom, Oliver Gardner, who simply asked her for a light. Jordan Trengove was accused of raping and drugging her knifepoint. He spent 73 days in prison.
Her wildest allegations was for Mohammed Ramzan, a businessman from Barrow. He told the Preston crown court he met Williams once briefly at a family party. Williams lied that he was head of an international grooming gang. She said Ramzan had sex with her when she was 12 or 13, and then trafficked her with dozens of other girls.
Trengove, Gardner and Ramzan all considered suicide as a result of being falsely accused.
Williams made a list of 60 girls, half from Cumbria and half from elsewhere, who she said had been pimped out by Ramzan’s gang.
One of them, Chloe (not real name), was confused after she was informed that she had been groomed and abused with Williams.
“I had the police round out of the blue. They said I was named by Ellie Williams, that I was at these parties in Morecambe and Preston – not the case at all,” said Chloe, now 21. She said she had been on one night out with Williams and, though she knew her to say hi, was not a close friend. “It’s very weird how she mentioned my name.”
According to Chloe, “Everyone had something of Justice for Ellie. Everyone. And if it wasn’t on you, it was on your car or on the front of your house.” She says she feels “stupid” to have joined the rallies for someone who made up so many lies. “It got very nasty very quickly.”
Trengove had “rapist” spray-painted on his apartment. Ramzan received more than 500 death threats and had to flee Barrow.
A restaurateur, who asked not to be named, said he lost at least £80,000 worth of custom because his name was on the list.
During Williams’ sentencing hearing at Preston crown court, Judge Altham asked if the prosecution was asking him to sentence on the basis that the offences were motivated by racial hatred. Jonathan Sandiford KC said no, noting the jury had heard evidence of Williams’ “affectionate and emotional” relationship with at least one Asian man.
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