Women's Corner

My ex-boyfriend was found guilty of rape. But at the trial I was treated like the villain… So I launched a case against his vicious lawyer – and WON

The triumphant tweet said it all. ‘I fought the law and I WON!’ announced Ellie Wilson, telling the world of a groundbreaking victory — one that she hopes will change the way rape victims are treated in court.

Ellie, 26, is one extraordinary young woman who has done a lot of healing in the public spotlight. It is four years since she summoned up the courage to tell police that her abusive then-partner had raped her.

The odds were against her; it is estimated that only one per cent of reported rape cases ends in a prosecution. But this time the system worked (to a point). Her rapist, Daniel McFarlane, was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. 

Since then, Ellie has not only waived her right to anonymity to go public about her ordeal, but has used her increasing influence, mostly on the social media sites Twitter and TikTok, to campaign for change.

It took years for Ellie Wilson to summon up the courage to tell police that her abusive then-partner had raped her… she then faced a ‘humiliating’ ordeal in court

She would be awe-inspiring anyway, but her latest legal battle is quite breathtaking. Last year, fuelled by a searing sense of injustice that transcended the guilty verdict, she resolved to take on her rapist’s defence lawyer Lorenzo Alonzi, who had left her shaking, reeling and almost doubting her own name in court.

His ‘humiliating’ cross-examination of her was, she says, designed to break her down and poison the minds of the jury.

Such treatment is sadly all too common for women in Ellie’s position, and is the reason many women choose not to pursue a case against their attacker, fearful of being traumatised all over again in the courtroom.

Ellie is not a lawyer, and didn’t quite grasp how arduous the process against Alonzi would be. But she studied the law, crowdfunded to raise the £3,000 fee to gain access to the court transcript (she was shocked to discover that she would have to pay for this) and spent months compiling her formal complaint. Last week, the Faculty of Advocates complaints committee upheld it, saying Alonzi ‘repeatedly crossed the line’ of what was acceptable. In an extraordinary turn of events, he is now facing disciplinary proceedings himself.

‘We don’t yet know what that will involve, but I have asked for a public apology,’ Ellie says. ‘And compensation for the emotional distress caused. What he did in that courtroom was unforgiveable. It was a violation all over again, a different sort of violation.

Ellie's ex-boyfriend Daniel McFarlane was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison

Ellie’s ex-boyfriend Daniel McFarlane was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison

‘He presented a narrative that was simply not true. He presented me as the villain, questioned my mental health, asked if I was suffering from a personality disorder. Even after Daniel had been found guilty of rape, Alonzi continued to present me as the one who had ruined this poor boy’s life.

‘This is what rape survivors are up against in court, and this needs to be challenged, because it is wrong.’ She hopes her case will set a precedent, ‘and ensure that no other survivor can be put through what I was’.

Ellie’s challenging of the status quo has already caused waves in Scotland, where the rules about victims needing to pay to access court transcripts have been changed. What next? ‘There is still a long way to go, but what I really hope is that the women coming up behind me will get the message that they do have a voice, they can speak up.’

Some will say that it is incumbent upon a defence lawyer to discredit his client’s accuser, and that innocent men will be left open to false accusations if defence barristers feel unable to question an accuser’s character.

Ellie says the cross-examination by her rapist’s defence lawyer Lorenzo Alonzi left her shaking, reeling and almost doubting her own name in court

Ellie says the cross-examination by her rapist’s defence lawyer Lorenzo Alonzi left her shaking, reeling and almost doubting her own name in court

But it is clear that Alonzi repeatedly went far beyond the bounds of an acceptable defence. In particular, the Faculty of Advocates upheld Ellie’s complaint that Alonzi made references in his jury speech to her sexual history and suggested she may have a personality disorder (based on his opinion, with no medical diagnosis to speak of) despite the judge warning him not to in advance.

The Ellie Wilson who arrives for our photoshoot in Glasgow is a poised and confident young woman who knows her own mind, and the law. The message under her Twitter handle says ‘pain can either be your prison or your platform’, and this is now the mantra she lives by.

She grew up in Edinburgh with parents who instilled strong principles, she says.

Her father is a retired NHS nursing manager, and her mother is ‘what I call a professional board-sitter, because she sits on lots of boards: My mum was once on the board of Police Scotland and resigned because she did not agree with a policy decision’.

Ellie was a top-flight student, destined for an academic route. She has a first-class politics degree from Glasgow University, and has since topped it off with a master’s with distinction.

‘I think even as a child I had this idea of wanting to change the world. I was one of those annoying kids who was always writing to the local councillor or the First Minister about something that needed to change.’

How does an assured woman like this step into the arms of a predator? With terrifying ease, it seems.

Ellie met Daniel McFarlane, a fellow student at Glasgow, in 2017, at perhaps a vulnerable point in her life. He was studying medicine, a nice boy from a nice family in Inverness, a champion athlete.

‘I’d just come out of a relationship. I wasn’t ready for anything else, but he helped me. Athletics had been a big part of my life and I’d lost my coach. Daniel stepped up and we’d train together. He became my best friend. There was a level of dependency there, I can see that now.’

Three months after they met, when they were not even a couple, Daniel raped her after a New Year’s Eve party. She was drunk, and passed out on the bed. When she woke, she realised something had happened.

‘I had a bad feeling, but I didn’t want to speak it into existence.’

It would be seven months later before she had it confirmed that there had been non-consensual intercourse that night.

Yet they still became a couple.

‘I loved him. I wanted to please him. The worse he treated me, the more I wanted to prove to him that I was worthy of him.’ It is the rationale of so many in abusive relationships. ‘People think of domestic abuse as something for older, married people, but it is not. But while you are inside it, you cannot see it. Your perceptions are warped.’

From the off, it was a relationship characterised by rows and jealousies. She says Daniel could be ‘lovely’ one minute, criticising and making her feel ‘worthless’ the next.

‘The highs were high and the lows were very low,’ she recalls. ‘I suppose it was like a drug addiction. I was always anxious, on eggshells, afraid of upsetting him.’

She has always claimed Daniel was physically abusive, but there was a ‘not proven’ verdict to the assault charge that was brought against him at the same time as the rapes.

In 2018, however, there was another rape. Returning from an athletics competition, he wanted to have sex. She declined because she was suffering from a UTI. He raped her anyway. One text that was used as evidence in court shows her saying, ‘You cannot keep doing this stuff. I cannot keep forgiving you.’

What is clear is that, in that relationship, she felt it was her duty to have sex, even if she did not want to. ‘I am in another relationship now and it still amazes me that if I say I do not want to be intimate with my boyfriend, he will say ‘OK’. You have to kind of re-learn what a ‘normal’ relationship is.’

By 2019, Ellie was struggling to cope, her confidence shot to pieces. ‘I kept a lot of it from my friends, but they say now, ‘We lost you. You weren’t there.’ I keep saying it, but it was like I was a ghost, a shadow of the person I had been.’

She still couldn’t leave Daniel, though. Instead, she resolved to take her own life. ‘I stopped going to classes, which wasn’t me at all because I loved studying. Just before I went into this period of depression I’d got an essay back and I got the best marks in the whole year. Normally, I’d have been jumping for joy, but I didn’t care. He’d planted these negative ideas about me in my head.’

She attempted suicide, taking a series of overdoses. A friend intervened and she spent a week in hospital. ‘They told me that I could have been looking at a liver transplant but, thankfully, it didn’t come to that. The liver can re-grow.’

How did the rest of her re-grow? It was only because of lockdown that she escaped that abusive cycle.

‘I’d left him before, and gone back, but then, when lockdown came along, we were permanently separated. I started to be able to see clearly. I could think again. And the more I thought, the more I realised that I had to go to the police.’

Didn’t she always know that she would, given she had been illicitly taping conversations (‘my heart was pounding on the day I had my phone recording in my bag’), and keeping incriminating texts?

‘No, I was never sure. It was a case of ‘if I ever do, I will need these’.’

In the taped confessions and text messages, Daniel admitted he’d raped her. He was almost brazen. One message read: ‘The reason I told you you have probably been raped while drunk sleeping is that I did it.’ In a taped recording, she asked him how he felt about having raped her. ‘I feel good knowing I’m not in prison,’ he replied.

Ellie still can’t believe how many people he told. ‘He told his mum, who said no one would believe me. He told friends. One of them said, ‘Oh well, it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.’ Only one person called him out on it and that person, a mutual friend, ended up giving evidence when it came to trial.’

Daniel was promptly charged.

The court ordeal 'was a violation all over again, a different sort of violation', says Ellie

The court ordeal ‘was a violation all over again, a different sort of violation’, says Ellie

‘I cried when making the statement because I still loved him,’ she says. He had threatened to take his own life, too, ‘and I was the one who got him help’.

It took two years for the case to come to trial. During this time she got her first job, working as a researcher in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh — only to discover that Daniel was in the city, too. Although he had been suspended from Glasgow University, Edinburgh University had allowed him to study there.

‘I could not believe that. He was awaiting trial, for the rape of another student, and he was welcome on a campus?’ She has discovered since that there was no obligation for universities to share such information, and has campaigned to change this, too.

Then came the harrowing six-day trial in 2022. She knew — as every rape victim does — that she would feel on trial herself.

‘But still. I did not expect it to be so personal. And I did not expect that they could just make things up to make me look like a person I am not.’

In the UK there are rules that determine how far defence counsel can go in cross-examination. But the transcripts from this case are horrifying. Lorenzo Alonzi repeatedly stressed that Daniel was a virgin when he met Ellie; she was not. His destiny — went that narrative — was set.

‘Tragically, he went to university and fell in love. He fell in love, that’s what’s happened,’ the court was told. ‘He had never, he hadn’t even kissed a girl before. And he fell in love with the wrong person. They were like chalk and cheese, my Lord.’

Who can blame Ellie for her utter rage?

‘I was questioned by the prosecution and it was factual. But when it came to Mr Alonzi’s narrative, fact went out the window. At one point he asked if I had narcissistic personality disorder. Where did that come from? He seemed obsessed with Cluster B personality disorder. I didn’t even know what it was, but I discovered later that it formed a part of the Johnny Depp trial.

‘I don’t know if Mr Alonzi was deliberately trying to draw parallels there, knowing that the public had taken against Amber Heard for some reason, but it was devastating. Some things he said, the judge wouldn’t allow to stay on the record, but I believe that barristers do that, knowing that even if they aren’t admissible, the jury has heard them.’

At one point Alonzi asked the court to consider how ‘manipulative’ Ellie had been while giving evidence. ‘Daniel had to put up with that for two and a half years,’ he observed.

And Ellie was powerless.

‘I had to sit and take this tirade. Even after the guilty verdict, he was still saying that the injustice was against Daniel.’

She is particularly angry that she was portrayed as some sort of harlot. ‘Men that I barely knew — one that I’d only had a lift from — were dragged into it. I was asked, ‘Were you trying to make Daniel jealous with this man?’ He had given me a lift!’ She held it together in court — to the point where Mr Alonzi pointed out that she was the ‘strong’ one. ‘He even used that against me,’ she says. But her account now does not suggest she was feeling like a strong woman then.

‘I told my friends that if there wasn’t a guilty verdict they couldn’t leave me on my own after. I didn’t trust myself.’

The physical manifestation of her stress throughout came in flashbacks and panic attacks.

‘I went through a period of seeing him [Daniel] everywhere on the street.’ She has since been diagnosed with PTSD but it’s hard to unravel how much of her issues came from the rapes and dysfunctional relationship, and how much came from the trial.

She certainly agrees that her treatment by Alonzi ‘felt like another violation, which is ironic given why we were there’.

‘I have used the word ‘retraumatised’ before. I don’t know if that is right, because it was a completely different, separate trauma, but there were moments when it felt like I was going back to that time, when I was with Daniel, that I didn’t know my own mind.

‘When you are in an abusive relationship, that person poisons everything, even your own perception of what is real and what isn’t. It happened again in court.’

And yet, she knew ‘something very wrong was happening in that courtroom. I was not the villain, and how dare they be allowed to go down that road’.


Ellie is rightly proud of her latest victory. ‘It was a lonely road to get there,’ she says, ‘but I am very proud that I did.’

Her bravery in challenging the court proceedings in such a public manner has perhaps highlighted just why so many rape and sexual assault trails are discontinued (six a week in England and Wales), and why the conviction rate is so low. What woman would put herself through this?

‘I hope by speaking out, it will show other women that they can, though,’ she says. ‘This is all for the women coming behind me.’

And her journey continues, complete with astonishing twists. It was only on Friday last week that her mobile phone — seized by police as evidence — was returned, a full four years after she walked into that police station. The reality of being a rape survivor continues to shock.

‘Daniel is nearly halfway through his sentence, which means he will be eligible for parole by the end of this year. I’m still in the same flat. I’ve only just got my phone back. In some ways, I feel as if I have barely begun to move on.’

In other ways, she has. And how.

For help regarding sexual violence, go to rapecrisis.org.uk. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, contact Samaritans.org or call 116 123.

  • For more: Elrisala website and for social networking, you can follow us on Facebook
  • Source of information and images “dailymail

Related Articles

Back to top button