Woman assaulted by Labour councillor: I want to reopen case

The woman who was subjected to vicious domestic violence by a sitting Croydon Labour councillor has spoken out publicly for the first time since her ordeal.

This image of Elly Snåll was taken shortly after her assault last September.                          Photo used with permission

The violent attack, which took place last September, led to the resignation of Niro Sirisena as a councillor for Fairfield ward.

But despite her suffering what she calls “an unforgivable violent crime”, Ellinor Snåll says that now Sirisena is seeking to make a return to politics, perhaps even with ambitions of becoming elected once again.

And she says that he is being actively helped in his cause by one of council leader Tony Newman’s most trusted colleagues at the Town Hall.

Snåll has spoken about her long-running ordeal of physical and mental abuse during her tempestuous relationship with Sirisena, and she says that she has continued to be the subject of abuse from the ex-councillor since the New Year, including a distressing encounter with her former partner last week.

“He gaslighted me, lied to me and manipulated me continuously our whole relationship to the point I attempted suicide,” Snåll said.

“If I still have any power to prevent him from ever doing this to anyone else, I will use it.”

Last September, Snåll spent four hours at a Croydon police station making a detailed statement about the violent attack she suffered at the hands of Sirisena. The assault occurred after the couple had returned home following the Fairfield Halls reopening party. But she eventually decided not to press charges. Despite legal advice from the Croydon Family Justice Centre, she did not take out a restraining order against her former partner.

Initially suspended at work while the incident was subject to a police investigation, it is understood that Sirisena has gone back to his teaching job. With no charges pending, never mind any conviction, it is equally possible that the sometime councillor Sirisena – who self-described as “JC’s DJ” – might even figure in political campaigning around Croydon soon.

Niro Sirisena: making a comeback?

In December, he was photographed when out canvassing in Chingford – Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency – during the General Election campaign, and more recently he was involved in raising a petition to remove a mural of Winston Churchill from a wall in Croydon town centre.

Named alongside Sirisena on that petition is Chris Clark, his former council colleague in Fairfield ward who was recently promoted to be chair of the council’s planning committee.

Clark’s support for Sirisena is something which Snåll finds particularly distressing and annoying. “Chris knew everything that happened. Niro virtually confessed it all to him,” she said.

“But now he’s helping him.”

According to Snåll, Clark has even been seen to text Sirisena “We miss you” messages.

“And he’s not the only one,” she says, without identifying who else in Croydon Labour might be connecting with the man who just nine months ago was forced to resign from the party in disgrace.

It was at the Labour Party conference in September that Sirisena’s assault on Snåll came to light. He was sharing a room in Brighton with Clark. It was then that he told his ward colleague what had happened in the assault the previous month.

Some 48 hours later, after Sirisena had been summoned to an urgent, secret meeting with council leader Tony Newman and colleague Clive Fraser, Croydon Labour issued a brief statement saying that Sirisena had resigned as a councillor with immediate effect following what they called “a serious incident”.

Despite being the leader of the council, Newman, who often wears a white ribbon symbolic of a stance against domestic violence, never reported the incident to the police.

And the delay in making any announcement ensured that, for Newman, any political damage was kept to a minimum, with the possibility of the police arresting a Labour councillor was avoided.

Once he became a councillor in 2018, Sirisena (a man in his late 30s who has been seen walking the streets of Croydon wearing a football shirt with his own name plastered across the shoulders), was fast-tracked by Newman when he needed to placate the then growing Momentum faction within the local party, and he was handed the non-job of deputy cabinet member for sport and arts.

For her part, Snåll affirms that Newman and his Town Hall colleagues were “very helpful to me” at the time the assault became known last October, and that they tried to abide by her wishes in how to conduct the case.

Old friends: Niro Sirisena, left, is being helped return to politics by Fairfield councillor Chris Clark

But she now says that she regrets withdrawing her police statement and not pressing charges, suggesting that she did so partly out of her love for Sirisena, and partly out of her terror of him, as he threatened to use any court case to damage her reputation.

“I won’t let you destroy my career,” she says he said to her.

Snåll says that she is now taking steps to reopen the case, filing a new police statement including evidence of further threats and abuse she says she has been subjected to in the past few months.

At the weekend, Snåll published a series of graphic and angry posts on social media to highlight her story.

“I won’t protect him any more,” she said. “It’s my story. I could tell it in detail and your ears would bleed. Niroshan Sirisena, I’m not afraid to say your name.”

In one of her posts, she refers to the incident, on September 18 last year, as a case of “abuse, domestic abuse, sexual assault”.

And she wrote: “I’ve never told my story, I always protected him.

“He was an elected official. I loved him more than anything. This nightmare has been fucking long. But it ended last night and I won’t stay silent any more.

“I wasn’t strong enough to meet him in court back when the investigation was still going on. I knew he had gotten himself a lawyer and I was scared he was going to try to deny everything, which he confirmed for me months later was the case, saying that I wouldn’t have stood a chance in court.

“Neither did I want to see the man I loved as a convict or in prison. I wanted him back. He would say sorry. He would agree to seek professional help. He would want to.

“I retracted my statement and the case was closed. I started seeing him again.

How Croydon Momentum responded to Elly Snåll’s social media messages at the weekend

“He wasn’t sorry. He didn’t get help.

“He was a Labour councillor in Croydon at the time he committed this crime. He kept telling me that I had ruined his career.

“He is currently back doing activism. He is back teaching at a school in London. He teaches young adults. He is also a DJ. Despite having been subject to a domestic violence/sexual assault investigation, for crimes he confessed to committing.

“There wasn’t a conviction because I was too broken and too weak to proceed with the case. I thought I could change him.

“This is reality for a lot of domestic abuse survivors. So perpetrators go free. No regrets. No consequences.”

Snåll’s outpourings prompted several reactions on social media. Croydon Momentum, where Sirisena had been a leading figure, tweeted, “Solidarity with Elly. We stand with you, not your abuser.”

Maddie Hensen, the Mayor of Croydon, posted a message offering help and support. And another Croydon Labour member retweeted Snåll’s messages, adding, “Quite a few on Labour left and party in Croydon know the individual, who is trying to get back into activist circles, but may not be aware of this.”

A few more will be aware of it now.

At the time of publication, four days after Snåll posted her messages, there had been no response on Twitter, offering support or help, from either Tony Newman or Chris Clark.

  • If you are affected by domestic abuse, the national DV helpline is: 0808 200 0247

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to Woman assaulted by Labour councillor: I want to reopen case

  1. Awful episode and, hopefully, justice will be done. Its a shame, though, that we never hear anything about those really good Councillors who don’t make the headlines. There are quite a lot of them. The work, for instance, on Autism by one particular Councillor, specially the terrible lives led by so many adult people on the autistic spectrum, is wonderful, an example to other Boroughs and worthy of high commendation. And there are others….mainly long serving and experienced stalwarts……but the silly actions of Newman, Scott, Negrini, Collins and others obscures the good work that some are doing.

  2. Norman Gooding says:

    If this is typical of the conduct of Councillors representing Fairfield Ward, I can be very thankful that the recent boundary changes transferred me to Addiscombe West.

  3. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    Decisive, timely and clear actions by Tony Newman throughout this sorry episode. And Newman thinks Croydon should still countenance him remaining leader or even being a Mayoral Candidate?

    There is no legal requirement for us to report a crime but I think those who represent us should be operating slightly differently and their moral compass always calibrated, not be offset by a 48hour lag.

    And as for the ridiculous antics of Clark with his derisible texted ‘we miss you’ messages’; it would seem he too is afflicted by serial poor judgement and a predisposition to being told what to do; by Sirisena and regularly by Scott at planning committee meetings.

  4. Elsey says:

    Brave woman for speaking out, that must be incredibly difficult.
    It is a disgrace that you weren’t given more support and amongst a litany of shocking stories about the self-serving, inept, immoral and apologetic behaviour of Croydon Council, this is by far the worst.
    Take care of yourself

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