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Eleanor Williams’ mother sued after ‘refusing to return £21,000’ donated by well-wishers

The mother of fantasist Eleanor Williams who was jailed for falsely claiming she was raped by men including an Asian grooming gang is being sued amid claims she has not returned £21,000 raised by duped well-wishers.

Labour councillor Allison Johnston, from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, was handed £21,104 to pay for legal fees to bring her daughter’s abusers to justice.

But last week the 22-year-old was jailed for eight and a half years after being exposed as a fantasist and convicted of perverting the course of justice.

Tory councillor Shane Yerrell, 39, who organised the appeal – which had more than 1,000 backers – said the money was originally intended to help Williams pay for a flat away from Barrow, where she lied about being a rape victim and sexually trafficked.

But when it emerged that Williams was facing a charge for perverting the course of justice, Mr Yerrell decided to draw up a contract so that the money could only be spent on legal fees and counselling for Williams, he told The Times.

Eleanor Williams posted this photo of injuries she said were caused by a gang. In fact, she inflicted them herself

Eleanor Williams's mother speaking to Sky News

Eleanor Williams’s mother speaking to Sky News

It also said that if no prosecution was brought against her alleged abusers, the money would be split between two charities, Women’s Community Matters and The Maggie Oliver Foundation, but both refused the money after the trial. 

Mr Yerrell, a Tory councillor in Essex, said communication between himself and Ms Johnston broke down when he arranged to give the donations to the James Bulger Memorial Trust and Furness Multicultural Community Forum but Williams’ mother wanted to pick her own charities.

Speaking to the Times, Mr Yerrell said: ‘At the end of the day, there was a guilty verdict. The money was raised to help her fight this grooming gang, which doesn’t exist.’

Ms Johnston has been contacted for comment. 

Mr Yerrell has revealed how he contacted Ms Johnston and urged her to release £3,000 of the cash so it could be donated to a family who wanted to take their terminally-ill three-year-old daughter to Lapland.

Ms Johnston ‘ignored’ the message, he claimed, so he decided to appeal directly to her in an interview posted on YouTube.

He said: ‘As a mother you should put yourself in that little girl’s mother’s situation… I think it’s disgusting to hold on to [the money].’

The ‘Get Justice for Ellie’ appeal raised £22,129 in 2020, but this was reduced to £21,104 after fees taken by the JustGiving fundraising website. Under a deal drawn up by Mr Yerrell, the money was to be split between two charities if no prosecution was brought against Williams’ supposed abusers.

Ms Johnston, a councillor on Barrow Borough Council, was suspended by the Labour Party in January after Williams’s conviction. 

Williams falsely claimed she had been trafficked and horrifically abused by an Asian gang in May 2020, in a 1,300-word account posted on Facebook, She posted harrowing photos of injuries which she claimed were caused by brutal physical abuse – but which she had actually inflicted on herself with a claw hammer.

Her post, which was shared more than 100,000 times, sparked far-Right demonstrations and death threats against local Asian men.

One man who ran an Indian restaurant in the town told how the windows of his business were smashed and people regularly hurled abuse at him in the street. ‘I had calls saying that they were going to rape my wife in front [of] my children, then kill me, and kill my kids,’ he told the BBC.

Williams had already made a slew of false rape claims dating back to 2017. One victim, Jordan Trengrove, told how he spent 73 days in jail, sharing a cell with a paedophile, after she falsely accused him of rape.

He last week voiced his anger that some of the money had not been given to the family of the terminally ill girl. He said: ‘They were quick enough to accept £22,000. Why can’t they give £3,000 of it and give it to an actual cause?’

Simon Fell, Tory MP for Barrow and Furness, called for the money to be spent on repairing the damage done by Williams’s lies. ‘It would be really good to see these funds go to a good cause that could further community cohesion,’ he said.

Three men who Williams falsely accused of rape tried to kill themselves as a result of her lies.