Eleanor de Freitas and Alexander Economou is a tale of victims and causes
Alexander Economou, 35, was accused or raping Eleanor de Freitas, 23. He was innocent. But the police and State would not let the matter drop.
Hugh Muir wrote of “her attacker”. That was later changed to her “alleged attcker”.
This summer we learned that the number of successful rape prosecutions had dropped after five successive years of increases. In 2007-08, 58% of cases brought to trial were successfully convicted. By 2011-12, that figure had risen to 63%. Since then, it has declined to 60. The number of cases referred to the CPS by the police also fell in 2012-13 despite the number of rapes being reported rising by 30%.
But Mr Economou is innocent. Using this case to make a wider point misses that point. It is based on the idea that rape is ‘fate worse than death’. It is heinius crime. But so is going to prison for a crime you did not commit.
The police are central to the febrile climate, where sex crimes are the worst crimes. Having ignored rape victims and mishandled cases, the police are scrambling for clarity of vision. This mean they miss the full picture. Healthy sceptisism sees you labelled as a rape apologist.
Sex has been recast as a risky affair.
Zerlina Maxwell tells the Washting Post: “We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.” No. Just as we should not belive as matter of fact what the defendant says. We need only to study the facts.
The Daily Express.
He had discovered that Eleanor offered her services as a “tantric massage therapist” on the internet using the pseudonym Goddess Olivia, describing herself as “the quintessential English rose”. He said: “I was stunned. She looked like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but there she was on what can only be called sex sites. The photos were suggestive and she was provocatively posed in next to nothing.”
After breaking off the relationship Alexander, of Chelsea, west London, received a text message from her cousin saying: “How dare you do that to Ellie.” Rumours then began circulating among their friends that Alexander had assaulted Eleanor, drugged her and would not let her escape from his flat.
Alexander went to Chelsea police station to report Eleanor for harassment – but when he arrived he was charged with rape.
It is a horrible story. The accused was tainted:
He said: “It was two months before they dropped the case because of insufficient evidence.”
Alexander then paid £40,000 for his own inquiry and the Crown Prosecution Service later took over his private prosecution of Eleanor for perverting the course of justice.
In April, three days before the start of her trial, Eleanor, a former Durham University student, killed herself.
This is not a new story. The Mail reported earlier:
Miss de Freitas, a brilliant former Durham University student who suffered from a psychiatric illness, told detectives that Mr Economou raped her just before Christmas 2012. Police investigated her allegations but closed the case after concluding that gaps in the evidence meant they would not be able to secure a conviction.
Despite being told he would not face charges, Mr Economou paid for his own inquiry in an attempt to show he was innocent. As part of the effort to clear his name, he assembled emails, text messages, details of phone calls and CCTV footage of him and Miss de Freitas together.
He then started a private prosecution against Miss de Freitas for perverting the course of justice by allegedly lying to police. The whole process is said to have cost him £200,000. The Crown Prosecution Service took over the case but decided against using its powers to throw it out, leaving her frightened and devastated.
“All I ever wanted to do was protect my reputation and prove beyond reasonable doubt that I did not commit such a heinous crime… I wanted a single piece of paper from the court to show that she had lied. I was not being malicious or vindictive. I gave her every opportunity to recant before going ahead.”
Writing in the Mail, Peter MacKay adds:
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.
The final word is with Mr Economou:
“I would have been happy if she had just been reprimanded. My problem is not with Ellie or her family, but with the police, who believed her to the extent that they never wanted to hear my side and would not investigate my complaint that she lied. However, I was stunned when I heard about her death. Up until that point, I had so much resentment towards her, but at that exact moment I could feel no anger any more. I still can’t believe that she chose to die rather than tell the truth. It was not something I could have foreseen. I agree she was in a corner, but I did everything possible to get her to stand down. I wish she would have been able to confess and still be alive today. I keep thinking about her family and how much they have suffered by the death of their only child. The loss of a daughter is much worse than being falsely accused of rape and they are as much victims as I am. But no man should have to go through what I’ve had to. It shakes your trust in people. I’ve become a bit paranoid, to the extent I’ve installed microphones all over my flat.”
A terrible story.