PETER McKAY: The rape case that tragically misfired
What are we to make of the tragic story of Eleanor de Freitas, 22, who killed herself after a man she accused of rape won the support of the Crown Prosecution Service in his private case against her for perverting the course of justice and lying to the police?
Her father, businessman David, says: ‘If only the Crown Prosecution Service had not supported that private prosecution. Because they did, I have a dead daughter.’
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is overseeing an inquiry into the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to put this vulnerable young woman on trial. It could have halted the private prosecution, but decided otherwise.
Eleanor de Freitas, 22, killed herself after a man she accused of rape won the support of the Crown Prosecution Service in his private case against her for perverting the course of justice and lying to the police
The West London coroner has asked to hear the full remit of the DPP’s investigation before deciding on the scope of his hearing, which will be before a jury.
The man Eleanor accused of rape, wealthy financier Alexander Economou, said through a spokesman that he ‘sends his condolences to the family for this very unfortunate event. It is a great loss.’
For his part, Eleanor’s father says she was unhappy that she could not put across her case to police in a believable manner. ‘In the end, she understood the police officers’ reasoning not to prosecute and she accepted it. She decided to get on with the rest of her life.’
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However, Mr Economou brought a private prosecution apparently to clear his name, but according to her father he went further than that. Mr de Freitas says that Mr Economou subsequently harassed Eleanor with texts and voicemails, as well as threatening to prosecute her and put her in prison.
Mr de Freitas claims: ‘The police were very tolerant of his harassment. If they’d shown zero tolerance and he’d been accused of harassment, he’d have had a difficult job with his private prosecution, and rightly so.’
The public is rightly very angry when rapists avoid justice. And, equally so when men are falsely accused of rape. But this story is a bit more complicated, isn’t it?
The police cannot be expected to bring a rape charge if they think they’re going to lose. And there must also have been the consideration that Eleanor might have taken her own life if the police had proceeded against Mr Economou, and she had suffered an attack on her reputation in the witness box, and lost the case?
Her bereaved father’s claims of ‘harassment’ by Mr Economou sound shocking, but were they strong enough for the Crown Prosecution Service to halt the private prosecution case he’d brought against Eleanor?
Evidently not, but did its officials take into account the possibility that Eleanor might take her own life if the case proceeded? They should have done.
The truth is that the Crown Prosecution Service is constantly pulled in opposite directions — by those who say it isn’t pro-active enough in prosecuting sex crimes, and by others who say it devotes a disproportionate amount of its time doing exactly that.
It’s vilified by ‘all men are rapists’ feminists and undermined by women who cry rape to punish men who’ve scorned them, or deceive boyfriends who might otherwise think they’ve been unfaithful.
No coroner’s court, or Crown Prosecution Service internal inquiry, is going to bring Eleanor de Freitas back, or assuage to any degree the lifelong pain bequeathed to her father by her pointless death. There won’t be much public sympathy for Mr Economou, perhaps. He’s wealthy, foreign-sounding and clearly felt Eleanor ought to be punished for accusing him of rape.
Men in his position — accused of rape but not prosecuted — are entitled to be angry. But most are grateful when the judicial system — always in need of reliable evidence — spares them a trial.
Few men in a similar position would go on to launch a private prosecution of their accuser, far less would they ‘harass’ them by text and voicemail.
When the police decide not to prosecute for rape, there is often a hullabaloo from the family of the ‘victim’. Not in this case. Eleanor de Freitas, says her father, was content to let the matter rest.
I hope Alexander Economou comes round to thinking one day that he should have done the same.
- On 2 June 2016 Mr Economou was acquitted of harassing Mr de Freitas, with the Judge at Westminster Magistrates Court commenting that he did not find that Mr Economou’s “communications by email, or indeed the first delivered by courier, reach the threshold of oppressive and unreasonable.
Felicity Jones plays the wife of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, a film which portrays the disintegration of his 30-year marriage to adoring, supportive Jane Wilde, whom he left for one of his nurses.
The actress says the disabled Cambridge professor came to watch filming and asked, via his computer-based speech generator: ‘Would you ask Felicity if she will come and give me a kiss?’ Ms Jones, 31, says: ‘It shows his rather flirtatious nature and this amazing capacity he has not to take himself too seriously. I embraced him and told him: “You’re amazing.” I read about all these great men in history and there will always be a great woman in the background doing the tedious, less glamorous stuff that keeps it all together. These women should not be invisible.’
Nor will they while feisty Felicity is around!
Felicity Jones, left with co-star Eddie Redmayne, plays the wife of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, a film which portrays the disintegration of his marriage to Jane Wilde, pictured right with Hawking
The 114-file secret child sexual abuse ‘dossier’ given to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983 has been ‘lost for good’, we are told.
‘They have looked inside and behind every single cupboard in the department, and they’ve been around them twice, and they have not been able to find any of them,’ BBC2’s Newsnight was told by a source. I wonder if the ‘paedophiles in high places’, suspected to be named in the files, might have been unmasked in court by now if they’d been former TV comedians or DJs.
John Lewis put me in a real spin
We'd trust department store John Lewis to take care of our banking, according to three-quarters of consumers surveyed.
I’d have agreed until last week, when I spent what seemed like an hour on the phone ordering a tumble dryer from them. I had to repeat myself so often I began to suspect I was the victim of a hoax. Was some hidden camera observing my mounting agitation?
Two days later, I got a call from John Lewis. Had I ordered two tumble dryers? No, only one, I said. But I seem to have ordered two, I was told. The person taking the order did seem very confused, I said. Please accept our apologies, they said.
To be fair, they did eventually spot the ‘two tumble dryers’ anomaly.
Dame Maggie Smith says playing the Dowager Countess in Downton caused her to be harassed by Americans while holidaying in Paris. ‘I love wandering on my own and I just couldn’t,’ she says. There’s a limited amount of sympathy for showbiz people who complain of being recognised. Some say: ‘Where would they be without our interest?’ But this is an abhorrent attitude. It’s bad manners and very uncool to approach someone you recognise from the television. The word ‘fan’ derives not from ‘fantastic’, but ‘fanatic’.
Dame Maggie Smith says playing the Dowager Countess in Downton caused her to be harassed by Americans
The Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds (RSPB) refuses, controversially, to back a Government plan aimed at protecting both grouse and their hen harrier predators. The RSPB says the grouse moor industry cannot be trusted.
Sir Ian Botham, who has challenged the charity, says: ‘More and more people are realising that the hen harriers’ biggest enemy is the RSPB — not rogue gamekeepers.’
Increasingly, many country people are distrustful of both the RSPB and the Royal Society For The Protection Of Animals — the former with an annual income of £80 million and the latter with £132 million. I wonder if their country-loving patron, HM the Queen, shares their concern.
Poet Wilfred Owen was killed, aged 25, in 1918, shortly before the war ended
Under fire... a truly great war poet
Wilfred Owen, The Old Lie, is the shocking title of a new biography of the revered World War I poet by Dr Barry Matthews, who is described as chairman of Galina International Study Tours.
He says the reputation of Owen ‘is founded upon shifting sands’. He was ‘not academically gifted’. He was rather overly fond of young boys. He passed himself off as a member of the aristocracy. He avoided going into battle. He relied on fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon for inspiration. And so on.
I wonder if the centenary of the start of World War I is a good moment to try to destroy Owen’s reputation.
He was killed, aged 25, in 1918, shortly before the war ended. He left for posterity images of what he’d seen that will stand for a thousand years or more. I always think of his group of soldiers, waiting for the end, in his poem Spring Offensive:
Halted against the shade of a last hill
They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease.
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept. But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws and Baron Falconer of Thoroton appear on TV supporting faltering Ed Miliband.
Helena Kennedy, 64, suggests his problems are all got up by the Press. Charlie Falconer, 62, feels Labour is ‘very keen’ to retain Ed as leader.
Both are proven lawyers who owe their ermine-clad eminence to Labour, generally, and Tony Blair specifically. In their native Scotland, some see this pair as ‘chancers’ — ‘those who stay in the game a wee bit too long’. But they still have a lock on the BBC when it comes to broadcasting-for-Labour opportunities.
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