Law chief probes suicide over ‘false’ rape claim

Eleanor de Freitas took her own life while facing prosecution. Picture: PA

Eleanor de Freitas took her own life while facing prosecution. Picture: PA

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AN INQUEST into the death of a young woman who killed herself days before she was due in court on a charge of falsely alleging rape has been adjourned pending an investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Alison Saunders is personally investigating the case of 23-year-old Eleanor de Freitas who died on 4 April this year.

Ms Saunders said she was “very saddened” by the death, and has asked those who worked on the case for a “full ­explanation”.

Yesterday senior coroner of west London, Chinyere Inyama, said that the inquest was now adjourned until “a date to be fixed”.

He said: “This was to be the resumed inquest touching upon the death of Eleanor de Freitas.

“Yesterday there was an announcement by Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, that she’d look into the case personally.”

He said he was waiting on written confirmation of her remit, which he expects to have by Monday.

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The adjournment comes shortly after Ms Saunders described the case in which the young woman was involved at the time of her death as “one of the most difficult I have seen”.

In a statement, Ms Saunders said: “I am very saddened by the tragic death of Eleanor de Freitas. I have asked the team which dealt with this case for a full explanation which addresses all of the de Freitas family’s concerns.

“I appreciate the family’s unease, which is why I am looking at this personally to satisfy myself of the detail surrounding all the stages of the case. Prosecuting cases of perverting the course of justice in connection with an alleged false rape allegation is rare, extremely difficult and always complex and sensitive. This case was one of the most difficult I have seen.”

She added: “I would welcome the opportunity to meet with Eleanor’s family to discuss the case and the law surrounding it.”

Ms de Freitas’s father, David, said his daughter was “a vulnerable young woman, diagnosed with bipolar, who made a complaint of rape as a result of which she herself became the subject of legal proceedings”.

He added: “This was despite the fact police did not believe there to be a case against her.

“There are very serious implications for the reporting of rape cases if victims fear that they may themselves end up the ­subject of a prosecution if their evidence is in any way inconsistent. It is of the utmost importance that the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] consider very carefully whether such cases are in the public interest.”

He said “the system of fairness in this country has let me down terribly”, adding that something needed to be done so that this can never happen again.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said the family had made a “very powerful case” for a special inquest under the Human Rights Act. She said: “I welcome the personal interest that the DPP is taking in this tragic case.

“However, the family of Eleanor de Freitas deserve independent answers, not just an explanation from the CPS.”

Mr De Freitas said he thought Ms Saunders’ decision to personally investigate was “an appropriate response”, but added: “It falls into the category of being a little too little too late.”

He said the CPS decision to continue with the prosecution had a “devastating” impact on his daughter, with the prospect of court “preying on her mind”.

Both Victim Support and Justice for Women have written to Ms Saunders about the case.

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