Eleanor Williams logged on to Facebook and tapped out a 1,362-word post which had profound consequences for the isolated Cumbrian town she called home.
A woman who made up claims about being the victim of an Asian grooming gang has been convicted of perverting the course of justice.
Eleanor Williams, 22, made a string of allegations in a Facebook post which was shared more than 100,000 times and prompted far-right agitator Tommy Robinson to “investigate”.
Hashtags dedicated to her trended, supportive videos appeared online, posters popped up in windows across Barrow and money was raised. One online fundraising campaign to “Get Justice for Ellie” raised more than £22,000.
“This is the hardest post I’m ever going to write,” she began. “I didn’t want to share this because I’m scared of the judgement that will come with it, it’s why I keep quite [sic] about what has happened to me, but people have asked me to tell my story. When people have asked why I have had a black eye or bruises I’ve made every excuse, from falling over to banging it on a door.”
The truth, she suggested, was altogether darker. “Yesterday I was put into the back of car, taken to an address to have sex with 3 Asian men. Afterwards I was beaten because I was in debt to these men for not attending ‘party’s for over 7 weeks due to coronavirus. The organisers of the party decided to beat me to teach me a lesson.”
The post on 20 May 2020 was accompanied by photographs of Williams, known as Ellie, who was then 19. She had a black eye, so swollen it was closed. Her legs and stomach were covered in cuts and bruises and the tip of her little finger was almost severed. One photo, dated to 2019, looked to be a photograph of her breast with a slash wound, her nipple covered with a heart emoji.
Williams published pictures of injuries that she suffered in May 2020 – but prosecutors told Preston Crown Court that she had caused them herself with a hammer.
As a result of her lies, demonstrations were held in Barrow and ay least one family was forced to move away, the court heard.
A jury found her guilty of eight counts of doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice.
Jurors took three hours and 29 minutes to reach their verdicts following the 10-week trial.
Williams, of Teasdale Road, Barrow, stared straight ahead as the verdicts were returned.
She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one count of perverting the course of justice, which related to contacting her sister and mother with requests for them to take a hammer to her solicitor.
Honorary Recorder of Preston Judge Robert Altham adjourned sentencing to March 13 and 14.
He said before the trial he had been provided with information on the community impact of Williams’ actions: “That community impact was said to include some elements of tension within the community of Barrow.
“It included, as I can recall, at least one family moving out of the Barrow area and harm to various businesses.”
The Facebook post sparked demonstrations in her home town of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and led to former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson visiting the town to “investigate” the claims.
Williams’ trial, which began in October last year, heard she had accused a number of men of rape, going back to 2017, and told police she was groomed and trafficked by an Asian gang.
On May 19 2020 she was found by officers near her home on Walney Island with injuries which she claimed were inflicted by the gang after she was taken to a house in the town and raped.
But the prosecution claimed Williams caused the injuries to herself with a hammer, which was found with her blood on close by.
Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, said the incident was a “finale” to a series of false allegations made by Williams.
In his closing speech, he 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.”
It was alleged Williams sent some messages to herself, making them appear as if they were from traffickers or fellow victims, and in other cases manipulated real people to send messages which she then said were from her abusers.
The jury was told some of the people she made allegations about were real, while others, the prosecution claimed, did not exist.
In what Mr Sandiford compared with a scene from Liam Neeson film Taken, Williams claimed Mr Ramzan had put her to work at brothels in Amsterdam and sold her at an auction there.
But the court heard at the time she was in Amsterdam, his bank card was being used at a B&Q in Barrow.
Another man accused of rape by Williams, Jordan Trengove, told the court: “It can ruin your life and it has ruined mine.”
During her evidence, Williams denied telling a “pack of lies” to the police and the jury.
Asked about her Facebook post, she said: “I wanted people to know what was going on in Barrow, still is going on.”
A number of young women were there too, summonsed after Williams told police that they, like her, had been trafficked by an Asian grooming gang and made to have sex with men at “parties” across the north-west of England as well as abroad.
The girls asked which case he was involved in. “They didn’t know me, but I was supposed to be the evil ringleader, the man who groomed them all for sex and took them to Blackpool, Ibiza, Amsterdam,” said Ramzan, an entrepreneur from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. Williams had named him as the kingpin of a European grooming ring, accused of starting a sexual “relationship” with her aged 12 or 13 and then pimping her out to friends and strangers.
One by one, the girls filed into the witness box to deny being one of Ramzan’s alleged victims. Some vaguely knew Williams from school. Others said they’d never met her. It was just one of many surreal moments in a three-and-a-half year ordeal which saw 43-year-old Ramzan become a pariah, spat at and called a “paedo” in the street.