Three men tried to take their own lives after false rape claims caused ‘outcry’

Three men tried to take their own lives after false rape allegations that sparked “unprecedented outcry” in a Cumbrian town, a court has heard.

Eleanor Williams, 22, accused a number of men of rape and posted an account on Facebook in May 2020 alleging she had been the victim of an Asian grooming gang.

The allegations made by Williams, who was found guilty of perverting the course of justice earlier this year, led to protests in her hometown of Barrow-in-Furness, Preston Crown Court heard on  Monday.

On the first day of her sentencing hearing, Mohammed Ramzan, a business owner who was accused of grooming Williams, told the court his life had been made “hell on earth” by the allegations.

Mr Ramzan, who was in tears as he spoke from the witness box, said two weeks after he was arrested following Williams’ claims he attempted to take his own life.

He said: “I still bear the scars to this day.”

Mr Ramzan said his property had been damaged and his businesses had been “ruined” after he and his family were targeted “in the most horrendous way”.

He said: “I have had countless death threats made over social media from people all over the world because of what they thought I was involved in.”

In a statement read to the court, 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.

He said: “Things had calmed down a bit until the Facebook post in 2020.

“This made things even worse for me. There were big protests and marches in Barrow.

“The lowest point was when I tried to end my life in August 2020.”

Oliver Gardner said his chance encounter with Williams in Preston led to him being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Mr Gardner, who was accused of rape after he met Williams in the city centre, said it was a “real shock” when he was contacted by Cumbria Police and told of her claims.

He said: “It was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In his statement, he said he tried to end his life before being sectioned.

He said: “This whole period in my life has been totally overwhelming.”

Cameron Bibby, who was the first man accused of rape by Williams in 2017, said he had to remove himself from most social media because of abuse and was scared to pick his son up from nursery because of the way people looked at him.

He said after Williams posted her account on Facebook, his neighbours displayed “Justice for Ellie” stickers in their windows, which “intimidated” him.

The court was shown videos of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson attending protests at Hollywood Retail Park in Barrow in May 2020.

In a statement, Superintendent Matthew Pearman said after Williams Facebook post, in which she published photos of injuries which the prosecution claim she inflicted herself with a hammer, there was “unprecedented outcry on social media within the town of Barrow”.

He said: “Barrow had not seen such public displays of mass anger for over 30 years.”

The court heard there were 151 extra crimes following the Facebook post, including 83 hate crimes.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster said in a statement some businesses had closed and members of the community had left their homes because of the outcry.

Louise Blackwell KC, defending Williams, said: “Miss Williams continues in her allegations against the various people in pretty much the same circumstances.”

Williams, of Teasdale Road, Barrow, is expected to be sentenced on Tuesday for nine offences of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.