Woman accused of false rape claim hurt herself with hammer, court told

<span>Photograph: Russell Hart/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Russell Hart/Alamy

A young woman accused of lying about being raped and trafficked by a grooming gang probably “self-inflicted” injuries using a hammer she bought from Tesco, a court heard.

Eleanor Williams, 21, was found in a field in Barrow-in-Furness on 19 May 2020 covered in bruises, with a black eye and with a fingertip almost severed.

She posted photographs of her injuries on Facebook, alongside lengthy claims of being sexually exploited and taken to “parties” across the north of England to have sex with Asian men, Preston crown court heard.

But police believe she made up the claims and she is now on trial accused of perverting the course of justice.

On Thursday, the Home Office pathologist Alison Armour gave evidence after examining photographs of Williams’ May 2020 injuries.

She found “bruises too numerous to mention” over Williams’ stomach, legs and left arm, but none on the back of her head or back.

There was no evidence of bone fractures or internal injuries, nor signs of bleeding, which would be unusual in a violent attack, said Armour. “If this was a violent assault by a third party I would expect lacerated wounds,” she told the jury.

The pathologist also noted that Williams’ injuries were in places that she herself could have reached. In contrast, “inaccessible” parts of her body were unscathed.

“The lack of injuries to the back of the head or back in a violent attack by a third person would be most unusual,” Armour said. She also found “no injuries typical of defence”, apart from one to the back of Williams’ left arm.

Armour concluded: “The injuries identified on this young woman’s body are consistent with this woman striking herself a multiplicity of times with a hammer.”

A blood-covered hammer was found near Walney airfield, where Williams was discovered by police in May 2020. Forensic analysis found the blood was hers, but no DNA relating to anyone else. Williams bought a hammer at Tesco eight days previously, the court has previously heard.

The jury was read extracts of a notebook entitled My Songs, which was found in Williams’ bedroom, apparently written when she was 13. One entry, “I bleed”, described cutting herself on her arms and legs so much that she couldn’t wear skirts or dresses. “It feels so safe and I find release,” she wrote, adding: “You will never understand the feeling that comes with a knife in your hand.”

Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, told the jury that this showed that Williams had been self-harming with a knife since she was 13.

The jury was also played CCTV clips that showed a trip Williams took from Barrow to Leeds on 18 July 2019, when she was reported missing by her family. She later told police she had been trafficked to Leeds and that on her way home she was raped by several men when she stopped to change trains at Preston.

Williams told police that she was raped in the street in Preston by a young man called Olly Gardner, who was one of the traffickers. She also alleged that he sold her to two Asian males with whom she also had sex in the street.

She said she had first met Gardner in Barrow, and that he had forced her to meet her in Preston to pick up some drugs and act as a mule to take them back to Cumbria. But the CCTV showed her bumping into him in the street when he asked for a light, and the two briefly disappearing down a sidestreet. She emerged minutes later pulling down her dress and went back to the station and caught a connection to Barrow.

Gardner later told police that he encountered Williams for the first time that night after coming home from his grandad’s birthday party, and that they had a brief sexual encounter shortly after meeting.

Transcripts of phone calls made between Williams and her mother, Alison Johnson, were read to the jury. In them, Johnson asked her daughter about Gardner. Williams said he tried to give her a “sackful of drugs” to carry back to Barrow. But the CCTV showed her returning from Preston with the same shoulder bag she arrived with.

In another call, from September 2020, after Williams had been charged with perverting the course of justice – which Williams denies – Johnson told her that the police “are trying to make out that on every occasion that you’ve actually done that to yourself”.

Williams replied: “I don’t understand how they can possibly say I’ve done this to myself. How can somebody do that to themselves without having a mental health issue?”

The trial continues.