Woman's lies about Asian grooming gang left community in uproar

Eleanor Williams
Eleanor Williams

A woman who invented claims she had been trafficked, raped and beaten by an Asian grooming gang in a remote town on the edge of the Lake District, is facing jail after police described how her lies had caused uproar in the community and had forced families to flee their homes.

Eleanor Williams used a hammer to injure herself before telling police she had been sexually abused since childhood by a group of Asian men in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

The 22-year-old posted fake accounts of her ordeal on social media which went viral, sparking demonstrations in the town by far-Right protesters, including Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League.

Her claims led to increased community tensions in the town with local Indian restaurants having their windows smashed and other businesses being boycotted.

At least one Asian family who lived in the town and a local journalist who investigated her claims were forced to flee their homes after receiving death threats.

As well as lying about the Asian grooming gang, Williams had previously made a series of false rape allegations against local white men in Barrow-in-Furness and had already been charged by police with perverting the course of justice.

'Increased community tensions'

One of those falsely accused spent 10 weeks remanded in custody before detectives discovered he had an alibi for the night in question.

Det Chief Supt Dave Stalker from Cumbria Police said Williams’ lies had caused “uproar in the community, increased community tensions and negatively impacted trust in the police”.

Simon Fell, the Tory MP for Barrow and Furness, said the case had fuelled racism in the town and had led to the far-Right group Patriotic Alternative beginning campaigning there.

Williams began peddling her Asian grooming gang lies during the first Covid lockdown in May 2020 using Facebook and Snapchat to make a series of lurid allegations.

She posted pictures of injuries she claimed had been inflicted by her abusers including black eyes and cut lips.

The images were shared more than 100,000 times and led to a “Justice for Ellie” campaign being launched with tens of thousands of pounds raised in an attempt to catch and prosecute her abusers.

A 'Justice for Ellie' campaign was launched which saw tens of thousands of pounds raised in a bid to catch and prosecute her abusers
A 'Justice for Ellie' campaign was launched which saw tens of thousands of pounds raised in a bid to catch and prosecute her abusers

On May 19 2020, police discovered her close to her house, disorientated and suffering from head wounds which she claimed had been caused by a group of men who had kidnapped and raped her.

But detectives became suspicious after discovering a claw hammer nearby with her blood on it and after unravelling her web of deceit charged her with perverting the course of justice.

Police believe she had been inspired to invent the claims after watching the BBC drama Three Girls about the Rochdale grooming scandal.

She accused Mohammed Ramzan, a local Asian businessman, of being the ringleader of the gang, telling police he had trafficked her to Amsterdam and Ibiza where she had been forced to work in a brothel.

Preston Crown Court heard how some of Williams’ claims mirrored the plot of the Liam Neeson film Taken in which a girl is sold into sex slavery on the continent.

Williams used fake social media messages in an attempt to frame Mr Ramzan, but when detectives began investigating they discovered his passport records proved he had not visited Amsterdam or Ibiza.

Mr Ramzan received hundreds of death threats as a result of the false allegations and said his life had been completely ruined as a result.

Williams accused a string of other local men of trafficking and abusing her, sometimes engaging them in conversation online, before changing their names on her devices to make them appear as if they were members of an Asian grooming gang.

She also hijacked the social media accounts of random unsuspecting men she met online in order to manipulate messages and make it appear as if she were being groomed.

One of those she targeted was a supermarket worker from Essex, who thought he was in contact with a woman from Portsmouth.

Prosecutors told the jury: "The defendant goes online to her social media contacts and effectively finds random names on the internet she presents as being victims of trafficking or perpetrators.”

Giving evidence during the trial, Williams denied making up the claims insisting she had been telling the truth.

'I wanted people to know what was going on'

Asked why she had posted the claims on Facebook, she said: “I wanted people to know what was going on in Barrow, still is going on."

But Williams now faces jail after a jury found her guilty of eight counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.

She had already pleaded guilty to one other count of the charge at a previous hearing.

Honorary Recorder of Preston Judge Robert Altham adjourned sentencing to March 13 and 14.

Mr Stalker said: "It is important for people to understand that these were far from victimless crimes.

"Williams baselessly claimed she had been a victim of Asian grooming gangs and named specific individuals as being responsible for trafficking and abusing her - individuals who were found, following a thorough investigation, to have committed no such offences.

"In a number of cases, her claims led to innocent men being arrested by officers who, understandably, took such appalling allegations seriously. In one case a young man was arrested and held on remand.

"Williams had produced compelling evidence when reporting her abuse, whilst her posts on Facebook caused uproar in the community, increased community tensions and negatively impacted trust in the police.

"However, as detectives investigated her accounts, they found evidence that Williams had not only lied but had concocted evidence to support her allegations including creating fake Snapchat accounts and inflicting injuries on herself.”