'Fantasist' who made false rape claims reveals details of prison life and says 'I'll be out of here soon enough'

By John Mercury March 26, 2024

“Not many people want to hear my side of the story, and no one ever has,” writes Eleanor Williams from prison. The young woman whose lies caused uproar in a peaceful seaside town feels misunderstood.

Warning: This article contains images people may find distressing

In May 2020, Williams claimed on Facebook to be the victim of an Asian grooming gang in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria.

Her post was shared more than 100,000 times and sparked protests. Police say more than 150 crimes were committed by others as a result of her claims.

In January 2023, the then 22-year-old was found guilty of making it all up and faking evidence to support her lies. Headlines described her as a “serial liar” and a “fantasist”.

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Why did Ellie Williams create elaborate lie?

Yet despite the 11-week trial, the young woman at the centre of the storm has remained a mystery.

Now for the first time since she was jailed, we hear from Williams herself from inside prison, where she is serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence.

I first contacted her a couple of months after she was sentenced, via an app that allows you to email inmates.

I didn’t get a reply for weeks and then one day out of the blue, I did.

Eleanor Williams
The injuries Eleanor Williams claimed were caused by her attackers were self-inflicted, a court heard

“Sorry I haven’t replied,” Williams wrote. “I’ve been really busy, and I know it sounds crazy because I’m in jail, but I have just started work in here for an outside company and I have a reception orderly job as well so I’m working from 8.30 to 8.30 every day, and never seem to have a moment spare.”

She tells me she’s learning to drive forklift trucks and that she loves her new job.

Eleanor Williams
Eleanor Williams claims ‘not many people want to hear my side of the story’

“I’m OK now,” she wrote. “The trial was hard but I’m moving forward now. Just working hard to make the days go quicker and I’ll be out of here soon enough.”

The overall impression is of a young woman who is trying to keep her head down, stay busy and look to the future.

Williams’ mother Allison Johnston says she and her daughter have discussed Eleanor changing her name and moving away from Barrow when she is released, but she thinks she’ll want to be back with her family.

Eleanor Williams' mother Allison Johnston
Eleanor Williams’ mother Allison Johnston

And in one of her emails, Williams writes about knitting a hat and mittens for her sister’s baby, adding: “I’ve done a little crochet puppy teddy, and a hand drawn nursery rhyme book.”

Over a couple of months in the summer of 2023, Williams and I exchange a number of emails.

Read more:
How Eleanor Williams’ false claims unravelled
Sexual abuse victims reveal impact of Eleanor Williams case
Introducing… Unreliable Witness

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March 2023: Lives ruined by false grooming claims

I can’t ask her about the case. There are strict rules about prisoners communicating with journalists. They’re not allowed to discuss their crimes.

But every now and then, Williams lets on that it still plays on her mind.

“Not many people want to hear my side of the story, and no one ever has,” she wrote. “The media only says what sells and not the rest of it.”

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March 2023: ‘Eleanor Williams shows no remorse’

Williams did give her story in police interviews, but it was contradicted by CCTV, phone records, expert witnesses and online activity. And she did testify at her trial, but the jury didn’t believe her.

Much has been written about Williams without ever really answering the fundamental question – why did she, a seemingly normal young woman, create such an elaborate lie?

Our new podcast series, Unreliable Witness, delves deep into the background of this case – we speak to those closest to her, the police investigators and those most impacted by her allegations – in an attempt to find out.

From Sky News' award-winning StoryCast, Unreliable Witness looks at the story of Ellie Williams

Reporting with Jason Farrell, home editor

Podcast series producer: Anne-Marie Bullock

Executive producer: Louise Cotton


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