On any independent view, the trial of a young woman from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and all that went before it, is one of the most troubling and emotionally-charged cases of its genre to come before a jury in recent years.
Eleanor Williams, 22, of Walney Island was found guilty on 3rd January, 2023 of eight counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice. The jury at Preston Crown Court deliberated for less than three hours after a trial that had spanned eleven weeks (read more here). She had previously admitted another similar count.
The six women and six men who sat in the jury box at that trial, which had eventually got under way over two years after Ellie Williams (as she is much more widely known) was charged and then later remanded in custody, heard a raft of overwhelming witness evidence that condemned her as a liar and fantasist:
Tales of her being beaten, sexually assaulted, raped, trafficked and gang-raped by grooming gangs had no evidential basis and were readily unpicked by the prosecution with such as CCTV, mobile phone triangulation, credit card records and store receipts.
She named, in a handwritten note given to Cumbria Police, up to twenty other girls, whom she alleged were also victims of similar abuse. Many of them came to court, others gave written evidence, and swore on oath that those allegations made by Ellie were not true. Most didn’t know her, some had never heard of her. But the jury was left in no doubt that this was another key part of her fantasy that crumbled under scrutiny.
Following the publication of a Facebook post in May 2020 – shared over 100,000 and giving an audience reach of many millions – large scale protests and marches in Barrow followed and a JusticeForEllie campaign page attracted over 100,000 liking or following it. The post depicted Miss Williams as a victim of a brutal beating (or beatings) and its 1,300 words spoke in graphic detail the sexual abuse, torture, grooming by an Asian gang in Barrow and human trafficking, all of which she claimed she was a victim.
She did not mention in that highly controversial Facebook post that she was already on police bail on suspicion of perverting the course of justice
It’s effect was to leave the South Cumbrian community bitterly divided, its families torn apart and individuals and businesses relentlessly targeted by the Far Right. In the words of Barrow MP, Simon Fell, the town was “put through the wringer”.
Maggie Oliver, the former GMP detective and media pundit, who uncovered the grooming gangs scandal in Rochdale, and supports victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) through her charitable Foundation, was the highest profile name to back the campaign.
When Miss Williams made her first appearance at Preston Crown Court in June 2020, to deny the charges laid against her, a volatile crowd gathered in the precincts, carrying Justice For Ellie placards, shouting abuse at journalists.
But in October 2022, when the Williams trial finally opened after a number of excruciating legal delays that included a change of prosecutor, the crowds had melted away. As Ellie sat alone in the dock, dressed in neat, dark clothing, only Cumbria Police officers occupied the public gallery; there to witness for themselves the outcome of arguably one of the most difficult police investigations, spanning such a bitterly divided community, in the county’s history.
At day one of a two day sentencing hearing in Preston today (13th March, 2023) the court heard three of her victims, Mohammed Ramzan, Oliver Gardner and Jordan Trengove, give ‘Hell on Earth’ evidence to the effect that they had attempted to take their own lives as a result of the catastrophic effect the false allegations of Ellie Williams had on them, their families and their lives.
Mohammed Ramzan, also known locally as ‘Mo Rammy’, received countless death threats as a result of the false allegations. Jordan Trengove said the word ‘rapist’ had been spray painted across his house and his window was smashed after Williams accused him of raping and attacking her. He said he spent 73 days in prison, sharing a cell with a convicted sex offender, after he was charged as a result of her claims. Oliver Gardner said his chance encounter with Williams in Preston city centre led to him being charged with raping her, ultimately, being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He said: ‘I was in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
Another victim told of his own trauma: Cameron Bibby described his arrest by the police over Ellie’s allegation of rape as something he ‘will never forget’.
During the sentencing hearing, The Crown’s prosecutor, Jonathan Sandiford KC, told the court that following the Cumbria Police investigation, there was ‘not a single piece of evidence to support Williams having been groomed’ by any of the men she accused,
Louise Blackwell KC, who led the defence throughout the proceedings, submitted that her lay client continued with her stance adopted at trial: “Miss Williams continues in her allegations against the various people in pretty much the same circumstances.”
Eleanor Williams will be sentenced by The Honorary Recorder of Preston, HHJ Robert Altham, tomorrow (Tuesday 14th March, 2023). He will, doubtless, be mindful of the guidance provided to all judges by the Sentencing Council (read here). She can expect a lengthy prison sentence.
UPDATE: Eleanor Williams was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. Full sentencing remarks can be read here.
Page last updated Tuesday 14th March, 2023 at 2020hrs
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