Durham student killed herself after being accused of false rape claim
Now an investigation is being launched into her death
A 23-year-old killed herself after she was prosecuted for falsely accusing a man of rape.
Eleanor de Freitas, who dropped out of a degree at Durham, was due to stand trial three days before she committed suicide.
De Freitas, who suffered from Bipolar disorder, left notes saying that she could not face giving evidence in court.
She attended Putney High School and got straight As at A-Level before starting a geography degree at Durham.
Now the Director of Public Prosecutions has ordered an inquiry into the decision to prosecute the “vulnerable” young woman.
The investigation comes nearly two years after Ms de Freitas made her original rape complaint against 35-year-old “wealthy financier” Alexander Economou.
The charges against Economou were dropped because police thought there were inconsistencies in the Ms de Freitas’ complaint.
Economou then tried to clear his name by launching a private prosecution against Miss de Freitas for perverting the course of justice, which was later taken over by the CPS.
But three days before the trial was due to start, she tragically took her own life.
Last week Economou’s spokesman said of her death: “He sends his condolences to the family for this very unfortunate event. It is a great loss.”
Now, with the inquest into the death due to start on Friday, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has ordered an internal inquiry into the decision to prosecute.
In a statement, she 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 in order 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. To say any more at this stage would be inappropriate until I can answer the de Freitas family’s concerns fully and directly.”
Miss de Freitas’ father told the Guardian: “Eleanor 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.
“This was despite the fact the 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 consider very carefully whether such cases are in the public interest.”
Speaking on BBC’s Today programme, Mr de Freitas welcomed the DPP’s investigation but called it “too little too late”.
“We were utterly amazed and flabergasted that they decided to continue with the prosecution,” Mr de Freitas said. “It put her in a very low place. It was one-quarter of the the Eleanor that used to be there. It was soul-destroying and it ground her down.”