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Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Rachel Riley - Say Sorry

One might expect that settling a defamation action brought by Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley against one or other of her detractors would include issuing an apology, if only to concede that the person making the allegedly defamatory statements was mistaken, had made an honest error.

Ellie Williams

So when Ms Riley is the one making a mistake, and an apparently high profile one at that, it might also be expected that she would issue some kind of mea culpa, lawsuit or no. Which brings us to the case of Eleanor Williams, a young woman from Barrow in Furness, who claimed back in 2020 that she had been a victim of an Asian grooming gang operating in the town.

She claimed to have received injuries from beatings administered by gang members: money was raised under the auspices of “Justice for Ellie”, and the local Police force, along with local media, were deemed to have failed her, as they had concluded that there was no evidence that those Ms Williams accused had been involved in grooming young women.

A retired Greater Manchester Police detective, Maggie Oliver, became involved. And among those standing firmly in Ms Williams’ and Ms Oliver’s corner was Rachel Riley, who said, in a Tweet that is still live as I type, “This should be front page news today. This poor girl, let down so badly. Thank god ex GMP detective [Maggie Oliver] is fighting for her and however many others like her. Warning: very distressing content. #JusticeForEllie”.

Rachel Riley

Exceptionally, I have included the stats for that Tweet, the likes and Retweets. Ms Oliver clearly appreciated the endorsement, respondingThank you [Rachel Riley]”. To which Ms Riley doubled down withNo, thank you Maggie”. But she’s said nothing about the latest development in the case.

As the BBC has reported, “A woman who falsely claimed she had been raped and trafficked by an Asian grooming gang has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Eleanor Williams, 22, of Barrow-in-Furness, was found guilty of eight counts at Preston Crown Court. She posted photos on social media in May 2020 of injuries she said were from being beaten but the jury heard she inflicted the wounds on herself”. There was more.

One man told the court the false accusations had ‘ruined’ his life … Her Facebook post was shared more than 100,000 times and sparked demonstrations in her home town, however, the court heard this was a ‘finale’ to her story and she had injured herself with a claw hammer”.

And yet more: “Williams had falsely claimed business owner Mohammad Ramzan had groomed her since the age of 12 … Williams said Mr Ramzan had made her work in brothels in Amsterdam and sold her at an auction there … However the court heard that at the time, his bank card was being used in a Barrow B&Q … Another man falsely accused of rape, Jordan Trengove, told the court the allegations had ‘ruined’ his life”.

Could it get worse? “Another, she said, was an Asian drug dealer who had threatened to kill her and dump her in the sea unless she had sex with multiple men … He was actually a young white Tesco worker from Essex who she had been speaking to on a dating site”. You get the picture.

So what has Maggie Oliver been saying about Ms Williams and the revelations that she had been seriously creative to the point of lying? Her Twitter feed has, as I type, been quiet on the verdict. In a case where the far right, led by Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, made serious capital from Ms Williams’ variously false claims.

Rachel Riley’s intervention, whatever her intention, gave Ms Williams’s claims, and Ms Oliver’s backing, an air of legitimacy which, it is now patently clear, they did not warrant. As well as sounding a cautionary note for all those minor slebs out there, it begs the question: where is her retraction?

Ms Riley should issue a mea culpa this time. And sooner rather than later.

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