In 2020, Eleanor Williams posted on Facebook claiming that she was a victim of an Asian rape gang. This post went viral and resulted in a harsh backlash against Asian-owned businesses in her hometown of Barrow, Cumbria.
However, after being convicted of perverting the course of justice, some of the individuals who were affected by her lies have come forward to speak to the BBC. For their safety, their names have been changed.
They shared the long-lasting effects of Williams’ actions on their lives.
Who is Eleanor Williams?
Eleanor Williams, who was 22 years old, had first made accusations of abuse in 2017, but her claims did not gain widespread attention until the pandemic hit in May 2020. Williams shared a series of social media posts alleging abuse, which quickly went viral and garnered global attention.
A ‘Justice for Ellie’ campaign was launched and gained over 100,000 members on Facebook, with protestors taking to the streets due to the belief that the police were not handling the case adequately.
However, it was later revealed that Williams was already suspected by the police of making up false allegations at the time of her social media posts, which was unknown to the protestors.
In a Facebook post shared in May 2020, Williams accused a group of men of attacking her, even claiming that one of them had forced her to work in a brothel in Amsterdam. She also uploaded photos – which quickly went viral – showing her covered in bruises, including a black eye and a severed finger.
What happened at Eleanor Williams’ trial?
Williams’ story of being forced to work in an Amsterdam brothel was debunked in court when evidence (phone and bank records) revealed that the man she accused of forcing her into it was actually shopping in B&Q in the UK at the time he and Williams were allegedly overseas. This prompted police to compare her claims of being trafficked to Amsterdam to the plot of the film Taken.
Another fabrication revealed was that Williams had been raped after boarding a train to Blackpool. In reality, Williams had reserved a hotel room for herself and was watching YouTube videos at the time of the alleged attack.
The court heard how the bloody and bruised images that Williams posted on social media were most likely self-inflicted.
Williams initially maintained her innocence in court, but apologized for the harm her Facebook posts had caused in her community – hate crimes in Barrow-in-Furness tripled over the summer of 2020, and Cumbria Police recorded 151 crimes related to the case, including malicious communications, harassment, and criminal damage to the properties of those accused of wrongdoing.
But, as the holes in Williams’ story grew, she made an apology. “I know I’ve made some mistakes and I am sorry,” a letter read out by her legal team stated. “I was young and confused. I’m not saying I am guilty but I know I have done some wrong and so I’m sorry.”
Following her trial, Williams was convicted on eight counts of perverting the course of justice and was today sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.
What impact did Eleanor Williams’ accusations have?
The devastating effects of Williams’ false rape allegations were revealed during a hearing at Preston Crown Court, where one of the accused men, Mohammed Ramzan, described how the lies had made his life a “hell on earth”. Ramzan said that he attempted to take his own life two weeks after his initial arrest and that his businesses and property had been damaged as a result of being targeted.
Another accused man, Jordan Trengove, spent 73 days in custody and had “rapist” spray-painted across his house. He also shared a cell with a convicted sex offender. The third accused man, Oliver Gardner, said that he was shocked to be contacted by police as he had only met Williams once. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after trying to take his own life.
Cameron Bibby, the first accused man, was forced to delete his social media and was too afraid to pick up his son from nursery due to online abuse.
The impact of Williams’ false allegations goes beyond the individuals directly involved, damaging the credibility of genuine victims who come forward. While false allegations are rare, it is important to remember that victims should always be encouraged to report their abusers.
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