Barrow MP says town put 'through the wringer' by Eleanor Williams Asian grooming gang case

Simon Fell said there were no winners in the case. Credit: House of Commons / MEN Media

A town has been put "through the wringer" after a woman falsely claimed she had been a victim of an Asian grooming gang, its MP has said.

Eleanor Williams, 22, was convicted of perverting the course of justice after she published pictures of her injuries and an account of being groomed, trafficked and beaten, in Barrow-in-Furness.

The social media post, on Facebook, was shared more than 100,000 times and led to demonstrations in the town, with former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson visiting the town to "investigate" the claims.

One family is said to have moved out of the Barrow area following the allegations.

Reacting to the verdict in a post on his website Barrow's MP, Simon Fell, said despite the resolution the guilty verdict may bring, there were no winners in the case.

"People's lives have been ruined as a result of her stories, and Barrow has been put through the wringer", he said.

He added that he hoped that the local community could "heal" and "learn lessons that will better protect genuine victims".

Williams had published pictures of her injuries and an account of being groomed, trafficked and beaten, on Facebook in May 2020 Credit: MEN Media

Mr Fell said that he received a "deluge" of messages from constituents in the aftermath of Williams' Facebook post asking him what he was going to do about it.

"Soon, there were a deluge of messages," he said. "From parents concerned for their children, teachers for the community, community leaders concerned about Barrow's reputation, and then from some of the accused too."

He added: "And, as with any story like this, the vultures began to circle - those who make their money and reputations out of others' misery, whether selling books or advertising on their websites.

"The far right were the most obvious and insidious, with the indignity of Tommy Robinson whipping up tensions still further in pursuit of 'justice' being perhaps the icing on the cake."

Far-right activist Tommy Robinson went to visit Barrow to investigate Williams' claims Credit: PA Images

He said his surgeries were soon "peppered" with families whose lives had been "torn apart" by the allegations made against them.

"For many people frustrated with being locked down, of reading about a great injustice being done to one of their own, this provided a perfect opportunity to vent steam," he said.

"But for a sad minority it spilled out to violence and intimidation. Soon my surgeries were peppered with families who had been torn apart by the allegations made against them, and local people who feared for their and their children's safety due to the colour of their skin."

Simon Fell made the comments on his website Credit: Parliament TV

He continued: "One man spent time in prison due to her (false) allegations. Others saw their windows put in. Or received death threats. Others still left town and have not returned. And trust in the police has been shaken."

In spite of the damage Williams has caused the community, Mr Fell said that he hoped that she receives "the help she needs".

"It may be her stories that provided the fuel for this fire, and which have unleashed genuine hurt on people and the wider community.

"At the end of the day, no person commits the kind of physical abuse against their own body that we saw in that first Facebook post, or fabricates the lies that she did, unless that are deeply unwell," he said.

Williams was convicted of perverting the course of justice at Preston crown court Credit: PA Images

Williams' trial, which began in October 2022 at Preston Crown Court, 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 19 May 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.

A jury found Williams 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.