A 22-year-old woman, whose lies caused a storm of anger and protests after she falsely claimed she was the victim of an Asian grooming gang, has been jailed for eight and a half years.
Eleanor Williams was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday for perverting the course of justice.
She fabricated evidence to make it look like she was a victim of multiple men – including using a hammer to inflict injuries on herself.
Three men that Williams had falsely accused of attacking her said they had tried to take their own lives because of her accusations.
How Eleanor Williams’s false claims unravelled
WARNING: This article contains images people may find distressing
The senior investigating officer, Doug Marshall, told Sky News: “I’ve had cases where people have told lies, but never to this extent.”
He added that if Williams, from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, had not been charged, “it just wouldn’t have stopped”.
Sentencing Williams, Judge Robert Altham said: “It is troubling to say the least that she shows no significant signs of remorse.”
The judge said there was no explanation for why the defendant made the allegations, which he described as “complete fiction”.
“Unless and until the defendant chooses to say why she has told these lies, we will not know,” he added.
Mohammed Ramzan, who was falsely accused by Williams of rape and trafficking, said he had tried to kill himself two weeks after being arrested.
“I still bear the scars to this day,” he said.
Speaking outside the court after Williams was jailed, Mr Ramzan said: “I am not sure how my family and I are going to recover from this”, but added they were “determined to move forward positively” with their lives.
Victims spat at in street
In a statement read to the court, another of Williams’ victims, Jordan Trengove, said the word “rapist” had been sprayed on his house and that he had tried to end his life in August 2020.
“I’ve not been able to leave the house, I’ve not been able to go to work,” he told Sky News after the sentencing.
Mr Trengove said it was a “relief” that Williams had been jailed but he wished the prison term “was a bit longer”.
Another victim, Oliver Gardner, gave a statement saying he was sectioned after trying to end his life because of the claims.
Even though four of the men she had accused were white, Asian business owners were impacted after Williams posted pictures of injuries to her face and body on Facebook in May 2020. The post was shared more than 100,000 times.
Two owners of local Indian restaurants, who did not want to be named, told Sky News they had bricks thrown through their windows and were spat at in the street. One said he lost 90% of his customers in the immediate aftermath of the claims.
Police say more than 150 crimes were committed by others as a result of Williams’ false claims.
Tommy Robinson visited town after false claims
Superintendent Matthew Pearman, of Cumbria Police, said Williams’ allegations led to “public displays of mass anger” in Barrow, with protests held outside the police station and on a retail park.
Videos of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson in the town were shown in court.
In a letter read to the court, Williams said she had not instigated anything which happened in the community and did not want Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, to come to the town.
She said: “I do not agree with his views or opinions.”
Police say they initially began investigating the sexual abuse allegations, but the case took a turn when they realised Williams had booked herself into a hotel at a time when she claimed she was being sold for sex in several properties in Blackpool.
CCTV showed her checking in. Phone records suggested she stayed in her room watching videos, apart from a brief trip to a nearby store to buy a pot noodle and chocolate.
Further investigations showed Williams had set up fake social media accounts to message herself, to make it appear that she was receiving messages from abusers.
Claims that Mr Ramzan tried to auction her in Amsterdam and traffic her to Ibiza were also demonstrably untrue.
Eleanor Williams’ sister addresses her claims
But, speaking exclusively to Sky News, her sister Lucy said Williams’ phone messages “were constant… asking her to go out, to wear certain types of clothing, to make sure she looks good for tonight”, adding: “It was all very weird.”
She said she also watched the messages come through and even filmed threatening Snapchats such as an image of a gun and machetes.
Lucy Williams accepts several of her sister’s claims were untrue, such as her being auctioned in Amsterdam, as she had been with her on that trip. Nor does Lucy believe that her sister went to sex parties from the age of 12, as they shared a room together, and she would have noticed.
However, she is convinced there were men, not included on the charge sheet, who did intimidate and harm Williams.
Describing one evening, she said: “One of the men was harassing Ellie at the bar and some of our friends had seen it and they’d warned him off. And there was a takeaway around the corner from the nightclub, and Ellie was coming home that night with me.
“He grabbed her outside of the takeaway and started pulling her arm, saying: ‘Come on, we’re going.’
“And she was like: ‘No, I’m going with my sister’, and his face, he was so angry with her. She did come home with me, and then the next weekend she came back black and blue, worse than we’ve ever seen.”
Lucy says her sister begged her not to go to the police, even when she repeatedly came home with bruises, culminating in injuries Lucy photographed in May 2020 that Eleanor posted on Facebook, claiming she was being abused.
It was the prosecution’s case that Williams inflicted these injuries upon herself in an effort to support her lies.
CCTV of her buying a hammer in Tesco was shown in court, similar to one found in the field where Williams was discovered with her wounds.
A pathologist gave evidence that bruising to her face, arms, back and legs, were consistent with being self-inflicted by a hammer of the same type.
‘I know I’ve made some mistakes’
In January, a jury found Williams guilty of eight counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.
She pleaded guilty to a ninth count at an earlier hearing.
In a statement read out by the defence, Williams said: “I know I’ve made some mistakes and I am sorry. 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.”
She added she was “devastated” by the impact her Facebook post had on the community of Barrow.
Williams’ mother, Allison, also spoke to Sky News, and tearfully talked about the moment the verdict came in. She said: “I can’t describe it. I still can’t take it in really. It just doesn’t feel real. The person the press are portraying is not the person I know.”
She accepts her daughter told lies but said: “I believe she was just trying to get people to listen to her.”
In court on Tuesday, Williams looked straight ahead and thanked the judge after he sentenced her.