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Reader threatened to ‘slit reporter’s throat and make her listen to Muslim prayers’

Amy FentonA regional journalist has revealed she was forced to flee her home after a reader threatened to slit her throat and make her “listen to Muslim prayers”.

Amy Fenton has spoken out after Eleanor Williams was jailed for eight-and-a-half years for perverting the course of justice – a sentence criticised as not being “sufficient” by the reporter.

Amy, who was then working as chief reporter at South Cumbria daily The Mail. was forced to flee her home after she covered allegations that Williams, 22, had been trafficked by an Asian grooming gang in Barrow-in-Furness.

Her coverage of the allegations, which turned out to be bogus, caused Amy, pictured, to receive 100 direct threats anf forced her to go into hiding along with her daughter, who was just five at the time.

She revealed further details about the case in a letter to Judge Robert Altham, the Honorary Recorder of Preston, prior to Williams being sentenced at Preston Crown Court.

Recalling the night she had to flee, Amy wrote: “The officer told me that someone had alerted them to a threat posted on social media in which an individual had threatened to slit my throat and make me listen to Muslim prayers while they did so.

“The officer told me that the police force felt they were no longer able to keep my daughter and I safe and I was told we had to leave Cumbria.

“This was at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown and so my options were limited.

“No support or accommodation was offered to my daughter and I by the police. I had no choice but to gather some belongings, get my then five-year-old daughter into the car, and drive to a hotel.

“The following morning, as two police officers were speaking to me in the room, the hotel manager informed me that he was uncomfortable with my presence and was concerned that his staff would recognise me and alert others to my location via social media.”

The court heard Williams falsely claimed she was raped by multiple men – three of whom subsequently tried to take their own lives – and trafficked by a grooming gang.

Williams sparked protests in Barrow after posting photos on social media of injuries she said were from beatings, but the court heard she inflicted the wounds herself using a hammer.

Amy, who now works for Lancs Live, told HTFP after Williams was jailed on Tuesday: “I didn’t expect to find today so incredibly overwhelming but I did. There have been so many ‘unofficial’ victims in this case and I have never wanted or expected sympathy but I certainly have none for Ms Williams.

“I think of myself as being something of a tough cookie but I cried as I heard the judge refer to what happened to me during his sentencing remarks.

“The true victims in this case have been in regular contact with me over the last three years and if nothing else that has been a source of comfort.

“I don’t believe that today’s sentence was sufficient however I do respect the judge’s experience and justification. If nothing else I just wish the case had reached its conclusion sooner.

“While I will always have respect for the police and appreciate the often impossible task they have faced over the last three years I will never forget or forgive the way in which my young daughter and I were left to fend for ourselves and offered no place of sanctuary when, at the same time, the defendant was accommodated in a safe house.

“I just hope that all those individuals who threatened to kill the true victims in this case will now reflect on their actions and feel utterly ashamed.

“And perhaps they will appreciate that professionals with knowledge of the law, including the police and journalists, acted in such a way to uphold the criminal justice system.”