Eleanor Williams is the girl who lied and caused a storm.
The legacy of a young woman found guilty of faking her abuse has cast a long shadow, which could affect other cases, with one genuine victim telling Sky News: “It makes us all look like liars.”
Williams, 22, was sentenced this week to eight and a half years for perverting the course of justice.
In May 2020, she posted shocking photos of her injuries on Facebook, claiming that she was being physically and sexually abused by “smart, evil men” and that an Asian gang had trafficked her to sex parties in her hometown of Barrow-in-Furness and in other places. .
But then, after a police investigation and trial, a jury at Preston Crown Court found that it was all a lie, that even the gruesome injuries were self-inflicted.
The case took more than two years to reach the courts and well before the trial took place, Sky News spoke to several alleged victims who were concerned about what had happened in Barrow.
The problem was that Williams’ false story echoed his own experiences.
One woman even told us that her abusers had said she would end up in jail just like Eleanor Williams if she went to the police.
In many cases, the women felt that the authorities had not believed them and felt that the officers were investigating them, rather than the men.
How Eleanor Williams’ False Claims Were Unraveled
Speaking to us last year, Laura – not her real name – said: “It’s a similar story for me, being exploited by a lot of different men and being taken to different areas.
“And after she was arrested, that really freaked me out because I thought, ‘I’m talking to the police about a similar crime, what if I get arrested?'”
Many victims still believe Williams was abused
That’s why, despite the conviction based on compelling evidence, many alleged victims still think Williams must have suffered some form of abuse.
Northeast sexual assault victim ‘Suzie’ feels the case has done great harm.
She said: “I think it makes us all look like liars and, well, with me and the other girls, they just wouldn’t want to come forward.”
In fact, when Eleanor Williams was sentenced, Judge Robert Altham said: “We are aware that there is sex trafficking of young women.
“There is a risk that genuine victims, as a result of this defendant’s actions, may be dissuaded from reporting him.”
A victim believes the case was dropped because of Williams
But some women fear that the case could affect the attitudes of the police.
A young woman from Barrow told us that when she reported a sexual assault, the case was closed shortly after Williams’ Facebook post was published because, according to her, the man she was accusing, although he was not named as a victim in the case of Williams, was related to his claims
‘Kate’ – not her real name – told Sky News: “I gave them my bedding. I gave them my pyjamas.
“And then after they had all the evidence, they had my statement: We got an email saying no further action.”
He added that he believed the police thought it might be another Eleanor Williams.
But Cumbria Police told Sky News there had been a four-month investigation into the teenager’s claims.
They added: “That investigation resulted in the arrest of the alleged offender on June 11, 2020. He was interviewed and denied committing any crime.
“The investigation continued. However, on July 19, 2020, the man was later informed that he had been released without further action.
“This decision was made following an evaluation of the evidence available to the officers, which did not meet the threshold for prosecution.
“The case was investigated by officers not involved in the Eleanor Williams investigation.
“Suggesting that Eleanor Williams’ lie had any influence on this case being NFA’d [no further actioned] or resulted in the police not believing the victims is completely unfounded and false.”
Police say Williams’ crimes were revealed by the force’s ‘diligence’
A CPS prosecutor involved in Williams’ case, Wendy Lloyd, says his crimes only came to light because police were so diligent.
“This case, if anything, would show the true and genuine victims how seriously these types of cases are investigated,” he said.
“Before charges were brought against Ms Williams for perverting the course of justice, there was a lot of protection around her and a lot of investigation into all the allegations she made.”
But the hard truth is that only a fraction of women who allege they have been raped are prosecuted and a woman found guilty of lying is likely to only make matters worse.