A brutal sex gang raped as many as 1,000 young girls over 40 years in what may be Britain’s ‘worst ever’ child abuse scandal. Girls in the town of Telford, Shropshire, were drugged, beaten and raped at the hands of a grooming gang active since the 1980s. Allegations are said to have been mishandled by authorities, with many perpetrators going unpunished, while it is claimed similar abuse continues in the area, reports the Sunday Mirror. Home Office figures show there were 15.1 child sex crimes reported per 10,000 residents in the year to September 2015. Telford’s population is 155,000 – meaning a potential 225 victims.
Telford’s Conservative MP, Lucy Allan, has previously called for a Rotherham-style inquiry into the allegations and called the latest reports ‘extremely serious and shocking’. ‘There must now be an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford so that our community can have absolute confidence in the authorities,’ she told the paper.
A mother and four teenage girls have been linked to the allegations of abuse.
Lucy Lowe, 16, died alongside her mother and sister after the man who had been abusing her, 26-year-old Azhar Ali Mehmood, set fire to their house. The taxi-driver first targeted Lucy in 1997. She gave birth to his child when she was just 14.
Mehmood was jailed for murdering Lucy, her mother Eileen and her sister Sarah, 17. However, he was never arrested or charged with any sex abuse crimes over his involvement with the young girl.
Another victim, who was drugged and gang raped by nine men two years later, said that Lucy’s death was used as a warning to other girls who might speak out. The schoolgirl, who remains anonymous, said she was driven to try to kill herself. ‘I was scared my family would die like Lucy’s. I thought they’d only be safe if I killed myself,‘ she told The Sunday Mirror.
In 2002 another schoolgirl was killed in an unexplained car accident in Telford. Becky Watson, 13, was killed after a car she was in crashed. At the time the incident was reported as a ‘prank’. However, it was revealed she had suffered two years of sex abuse at the hands of a grooming gang, which began when she was 11. In tragic diary entries she told of how she was forced to ‘sleep around’.
Her mother, Torron Watson, went to the police on a number of occasion and even handed them a list of suspects. But nothing was done. She said: ‘Girls like Becky were treated like criminals. I was crying out for help but it felt like I had nowhere to turn. If Becky’s abuse had been properly investigated by the authorities more girls could have been saved from going through this hell.‘
Vicky Round, a friend of Becky’s, was abused by the same gang. They forced her into a crack concaine addiction aged 12. By 14 she was taking heroine regularly. She died aged 20 after a suspected drug overdose.
In Rotherham around 1,400 girls, many of them under-age, were sexually abused over a 16 year period at the hands of men from the town’s Pakistani community.
An estimate of the number of victims in Telford was calculated with the help of Professor Liz Kelly, from the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, who reviewed the Mirror’s figures.
Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child abuse solicitor, said:
‘These children were treated as sexual commodities by men who inflicted despicable acts of abuse. The survivors deserve an inquiry.
‘They need to know how abuse took place for so long and why so many perpetrators have never been brought to justice.’
Seven men were jailed in 2013 following Operation Chalice, a police inquiry into child prostitution in the Telford area, despite the police admitting as many as 200 groomers may have been involved. Mubarek Ali, 34, sold teenage girls, some as young as 13, for sex above an Indian restaurant in Telford, Shropshire, after grooming them. His brother Ahdel Ali, 27, was handed a 26-year sentence after the pair sexually abused, trafficked, prostituted or tried to prostitute four teenagers. The investigation was launched in 2009.
Police officers investigating the Telford grooming gang scandal were sent an internal memo telling them “in most cases the sex is consensual”. Minors (16 and under in the UK) cannot legally give consent even if they did agree to it, but the memo may have been part of the cover up. Mr. Nocivelli, of the firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, added: “Many of these children will have been groomed and manipulated by their abusers and would have been threatened to keep silent. How can you say an 11-year-old is capable of consenting to sex with a 40-year-old? This is rape.”
The trial had heard evidence from four women who were between 13 and 16 when they were abused between 2007 and 2009. The leading figures in the network of abusers were brothers Ahdel and Mubarek Ali, from Regent Street, Wellington.
Both men, who variously sexually abused, raped, and controlled child prostitution involving four of the teenage victims, received lengthy sentences after an eight-week trial. Ahdel Ali received a 26-year extended sentence and Mubarek Ali was given a 22-year sentence.
Also convicted were Mohammed Ali Sultan, 26, of Victoria Avenue, Wellington; Tanveer Ahmed, 40, of Urban Gardens, Wellington; Mohammed Islam Choudhrey, 53, of Solway Drive, Sutton Hill; Mahroof Khan, 35, of Caradoc Flats, Kingshaye Road, Wellington, and Mohammed Younis, 60, of Kingsland, Arleston.
Youth workers first raised the alarm when teenage girls in Wellington, some as young as 13, started telling them the same stories about men they were seeing.
One victim, who was targeted by paedophiles and forced to sleep with dozens of men, said:
The police have betrayed the children of this town for a second time. I dread to think how many victims there have been over the years – it wouldn’t surprise me if the offending was on the same scale as Rotherham. ‘It has been going on for at least two decades. When will it stop?’
West Mercia Police have admitted errors were made in the way detailed reports had from street pastors on night patrol had been handled by police. Some of the street pastors had witnessed teenagers being sold drugs at under-age parties and gangs of men grooming intoxicated children.
‘It has been going on for at least two decades. When will it stop?’
A spokesperson for Telford and Wrekin Council told the paper: ‘Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a vile, evil crime. It’s an issue right across the UK and has been for a long time.
‘Telford will be covered by the national CSE review. We welcome this. All agencies continue to work very closely together and this remains our top priority.’
Police said 100 girls could have become victims in Telford between 2007 and 2009. Supt Tom Harding, of West Mercia Police, said communication had improved dramatically in recent years. He added: ‘Incidents identified by pastors point to potential signs of child sexual exploitation and we use this as intelligence, to target individuals who may need to be investigated.’
Since the conclusion of the trial concerns have been raised about continuing abuse in Telford, with a police chaplain suspended from duties in 2016 after comments he made about child sexual exploitation. The Rev Keith Osmund-Smith, who is lead co-ordinator for the Street Pastors in Telford, had said he doubted whether information passed to police officers was always acted upon. He was placed on sabbatical leave after West Mercia Police launched disciplinary action regarding the matter. He has since returned to work.
In 2016 Mr Osmund-Smith had said a number of reports about child sex exploitation were sent to senior officers. He said: “Because it was going to so many people, no-one was really taking responsibility for it.
“I was never quite sure the things we were reporting were resulting in any serious action.”
He had also raised concerns about the possibility that abuse was still taking place.