The judge described her allegations as “complete fiction” and criticised her for failing to show significant remorse
By: Kimberly Rodrigues
In January, Eleanor Williams, a 22-year-old from Barrow-in-Furness, was found guilty of nine counts of perverting the course of justice. She had falsely claimed to have been raped and trafficked by an Asian grooming gang and made similar false rape allegations against several other men.
On Tuesday (14), she was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail by Justice Altham at Preston Crown Court. The judge described her allegations as “complete fiction” and criticised her for failing to show significant remorse.
During the lockdown in May 2020, Williams posted photographs on Facebook showing her covered in bruises, with a black eye and a partially severed finger.
She claimed that she had been forced to attend “sex parties” by “clever” Asian men, mostly Pakistani business owners. Her allegations quickly spread beyond Cumbria, sparking a global campaign called Justice for Ellie, which had more than 100,000 Facebook members and even its own line of merchandise featuring a purple elephant.
The claims led to rallies across the UK, with allegations of a police cover-up.
In 2020, Cumbria police documented 151 crimes connected to the case, which included offenses such as malicious communications, harassment, criminal damage, and public order violations. The number of hate crimes in Barrow tripled during that summer.
On Tuesday, Williams wrote a letter to the judge, maintaining her innocence but expressing remorse and devastation over the impact her Facebook post had on 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.”
The judge acknowledged that Williams had limited responsibility for the community tensions that arose from her Facebook post.
However, he also stated that the consequences of her lies for the criminal justice system were far-reaching, and there was a risk that genuine victims would be hesitant to come forward as a result.
At the time of her Facebook post, Williams had already been charged with multiple counts of perverting the course of justice, which included making false rape claims against three young white men.
One of the men, Oliver Gardner, had simply asked her for a light in the street. Another man, Jordan Trengove, spent 73 days in prison on remand after being falsely accused of raping and drugging Williams at knifepoint.
However, Williams reserved her most severe allegations for Barrow businessman Mohammed Ramzan. Ramzan, now 43, stated that he had only met Williams briefly at a family party.
Nonetheless, Williams accused him of being the head of an international grooming gang who had first had sex with her at the age of 12 or 13 and then trafficked her and numerous other girls around northwest England and abroad.
Trengove, Gardner, and Ramzan all reported attempting to take their own lives as a result of being falsely accused.
The owners of Indian restaurants in Burrow faced a series of window-smashing incidents, which were allegedly instigated by a circulating Snapchat list that purported to identify the businesses involved in Williams’ abuse.
A Muslim restaurant owner, who requested anonymity, reported losing at least £80,000 in business after being named on the list. His orders plummeted from 70-80 per night to two or three, and he was pursued down the street by individuals on skateboards who hurled racial slurs and sprayed beer in his face.
During Williams’ sentencing hearing at Preston Crown Court, Judge Altham inquired if the prosecution was requesting him to sentence based on the premise that the offences were motivated by racial hatred.
Jonathan Sandiford KC responded negatively, stating that the jury had heard evidence of Williams’ “affectionate and emotional” relationship with at least one Asian man.
The court learned that Williams maintained her innocence and that two psychiatrists were unable to diagnose her with any disorder.
However, one of them, Dr Lucy Bacon, reported that Williams had experienced complex post-traumatic stress disorder due to childhood trauma.