A woman has been jailed for more than eight years making up allegations of rape and sexual abuse. Eleanor Williams caused protests in the town of Barrow, Cumbria, after posting photos on social media which claimed she had been beaten, raped and trafficked by an Asian grooming gang.
The allegations by Williams resulted in a large-scale police investigation into crimes including human trafficking and child sex offences and the investigation resulted in men being arrested. However, thorough enquiries found no evidence to corroborate Williams’ account and her story was proven to be untrue, with Preston Crown Court hearing she had inflicted the wounds herself using a hammer during a trial in January.
Williams, of Teasdale Road, Walney, was found guilty of eight counts of perverting the course of justice following the trial, having previously admitted one count. The charges arose after Williams accused multiple men over a period of three years of raping and trafficking her.
The most high-profile of the allegations Williams made was on 19 May 2020 - that she was taken in a car to an address in Barrow and raped by numerous Asian men, one of whom attacked her with a knife. Williams, who was already on bail at this time having been charged with seven counts of perverting the course of justice, uploaded pictures to social media of serious injuries she had sustained to her face and body.
The impact of the Facebook post was enormous and saw protests against the police in Barrow and beyond. However, Williams’ story was untrue.
Williams was found guilty of perverting the course of justice following a trial which finished in January. Judge Robert Altham said during sentencing that Williams had experienced difficulties since childhood and had a history of self-harm, but her allegations were of the utmost severity. He said it was troubling there had been "no significant sign of remorse" and "no explanation why the defendant would commit these offences".
Speaking on Tuesday (March 14), Judge Altham said: “She’s gone to extraordinary lengths to create false accusations including causing herself significant injury. Police were under pressure from those who believed they were complicit in a cover-up on one hand and those who felt unsafe at the hands of vigilantes on the other."
A two-day sentencing hearing was told three men Williams falsely accused tried to take their own lives after being targeted. In court, Williams said she was "devastated" by the "trouble caused" by her Facebook post and added "if I knew what consequences would come from the status I would never have wrote it".
Senior Investigating Officer for Cumbria Police, Doug Marshall said: “It is important for people to understand that these were far from victimless crimes. Williams named specific individuals as being responsible for trafficking and abusing her – individuals who were found to have committed no such offences.
“In a number of cases, her claims led to innocent men being arrested by officers who, understandably, took such appalling allegations seriously. Williams had produced compelling evidence when reporting her abuse. However, as detectives investigated her accounts, they found evidence that Williams had not only lied but had concocted evidence to support her allegations including creating fake Snapchat accounts and inflicting injuries on herself.
“Cases such as this, where someone has invented crimes and concocted evidence, are extremely rare. What is, sadly, not rare is physical and sexual abuse against children and young adults. It occurs in Barrow, in Cumbria and across the country.
“I can assure the public that we are committed to doing everything in our power – alongside partner agencies – to stop such abuse before it occurs and bring perpetrators to justice when abuse has taken place."Anyone who has suffered physical or sexual abuse - whether recent or non-recent - is encouraged to pick up the phone and contact police today. They will be supported and their reports will be treated sensitively and investigated thoroughly by highly-trained detectives."