Second charity refuses £10k raised for woman guilty of false rape claims

A second charity has decided to “politely decline” £10,000 originally raised for Eleanor Williams, who was convicted this week of perverting the course of justice by lying about being raped and trafficked.

Women’s Community Matters (WCM) in Barrow in Furness, Williams’ home town, was one of two charities that were to split £20,000 crowdfunded for Williams if she did not use it to bring her alleged abusers to justice.

Williams’ grandmother, the Cumbria county councillor Anne Burns, is a trustee of WCM. WCM offered extensive help and support to Williams when she claimed to have been sexually exploited, with her case worker called to give evidence for the prosecution at her trial.

On Friday, Rhona Teale, the chair of trustees, said: “Women’s Community Matters board of trustees met this morning to consider the offer of a donation from [the] fundraising campaign. The board unanimously concluded they would like to politely decline.”

Burns did not respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, the former Greater Manchester police detective Maggie Oliver said it would be “unethical” for her charity, the Maggie Oliver Foundation, to accept any of the money.

Oliver rose to prominence as a whistleblower on sexual exploitation in Rochdale and her charity now supports other victims. She shared Williams’ story in 2020 and offered to help her find a lawyer.

More than 1,000 people donated £22,129 to “get justice for Ellie” via a JustGiving page when her story went viral via Facebook in May 2020. After JustGiving subtracted its fees, the final amount stood at £21,104.

Shane Yerrell, a local Conservative councillor from Essex who started the crowdfunder, gave the money to Williams’ mother, Allison Johnston – herself a Labour councillor in Barrow – in July 2020.

They agreed that £1,104 could be spent on therapy for Williams and that the remaining £20,000 would be split two ways if she could not spend it on legal advice to help bring her alleged groomers to justice.

On Thursday, Johnston said she still had the £20,000 and was working with Yerrell over where the money should go.

Yerrell is looking at which other charities should receive the money and hopes to distribute it soon. He said it was not logistically possible to return donations to the thousand-plus people who originally donated to the JustGiving page.

After a 13-week trial at Preston crown court, Williams was found unanimously guilty by a jury of eight counts of perverting the course of justice. She had previously pleaded guilty to one further count. She will be sentenced on 13 and 14 March.