BRITAIN’S WORST ABUSE SCANDAL
1,000 ‘grooming victims in one town’ Five deaths linked amid calls for inquiry Now experts fear it could be...
A Child-grooming scandal in a Shropshire town could be the worst the country has ever seen. Up to 1,000 children could have fallen victim to brutal sex gangs over a period of 40 years in Telford, it is believed.
MPs called for an inquiry last night after new details emerged about the potential scale of abuse. It was also alleged that reports of abuse had been mishandled by the authorities – and that three murders and two deaths could be linked to the scandal.
A 16-year-old girl, Lucy Lowe, was killed in 2000 along with her mother and sister after a 26-year- old man, who had got her pregnant at 14, set fire to their house. He was jailed for murder but not sex crimes. Rebecca Watson, 13, who died in a car crash in 2002, was also being abused, according to a family member.
And her friend Vicky Round died following a drugs incident after a grooming gang allegedly got her hooked on crack cocaine when she was 12.
‘Forty years of abuse’
MPs demanded a full-scale inquiry last night into what could be the worst child sex abuse scandal the country has seen.
As many as 1,000 children could have fallen victim to grooming gangs that operated in the shropshire town of Telford for more than 40 years.
While sex grooming rings in Rotherham are thought to have targeted around 1,500 victims, that was in a community of around 260,000. Telford’s population is just 170,000.
New details emerged yesterday about the scale of the scandal, which has allegedly seen girls as young as 11 lured away from their families then drugged, beaten and raped.
The original police probe in 2010 identified more than 100 potential victims, most of whom were young white girls, that had allegedly been abused between 2007 and 2009.
But that inquiry – Operation Chalice – was closed after seven Asian men were jailed in 2012 for a total of 49 years for charges against four girls including rape, trafficking and prostitution.
In 2013, Ahdel Ali, then 25 and Mubarek Ali, then 29, of Wellington, shropshire were sentenced to 18 and 14 years respectively.
Following their convictions, five other members of their gang changed their pleas to guilty. Mohammed Ali sultan, then 26, Tanveer Ahmed, then 40, Mahroof Khan, then 35, Mohammed Islam Choudhrey, then 53, and Mohammed Younis, then 60, were each jailed for between 30 months and seven years.
However, according to a new investigation, the scale of the abuse is much greater than these seven men, has been going on for longer and has been mishandled by the authorities.
Yesterday it was claimed that 12 victims had now named more than 70 alleged abusers, and that violent rapes were still taking place in Telford just months ago.
Evidence was allegedly unearthed to show that local social workers first knew of abuse in the 1990s, but police took a decade before launching a probe.
Previously unseen files apparently showed that council staff viewed abused and trafficked children as ‘prostitutes’, not victims, and that the authorities had failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of ‘racism’.
Three murders and two tragic deaths were also linked to the scandal, according to evidence seen by the sunday Mirror. One 16year-old girl, Lucy Lowe, was killed in 2000 along with her mother and sister after her 26-year-old abuser, Azhar Ali Mehmood, set fire to their house.
Another 13-year- old girl, Becky Watson, who died in a car accident, had already suffered two years of abuse, it was claimed. Meanwhile, one of her friends, Vicky Round, died aged 20 in a drugs incident after allegedly getting hooked on crack cocaine by a grooming gang.
Last night, Telford’s Conservative MP, Lucy Allan, who has previously called for a Rotherham- style inquiry into the allegations, called the latest claims ‘ 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 said.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said last night he would also back an inquiry into the scale of abuse in Telford. He said: ‘This could be 40 years of abuse. It appears that the lessons from Rotherham and elsewhere have not been learned. At the end of the day, potentially 1,000 young girls have been let down.’
Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child abuse solicitor, said: ‘The survivors deserve an inquiry. They need to know how abuse took place for so long and why so many perpetra- tors have never been brought to justice.’
The estimate of up to 1,0000 victims was calculated with the help of Professor Liz Kelly, from the Child and Woman Abuse studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, who reviewed evidence from the sunday Mirror.
One 14- year- old, who was groomed and abused by paedophiles, told the newspaper she was forced to have sex with multiple men ‘night after night’ in ‘disgusting takeaways and filthy houses.’
she said: ‘I hated what was happening and my abusers made my skin crawl, but I was told that if I said a word to anyone they’d come for my little sisters and tell my mum I was a prostitute.’
she said she was getting the morning-after pill from a local clinic twice a week but ‘no one asked any questions’.
she also had two abortions after falling pregnant and said she was raped just ‘hours’ after her second termination. The girl said the ‘worst moment’ was when she was drugged and gang-raped by five men just after her 16th birthday. The ringleader allegedly threatened to burn her house down if she reported the abuse.
The investigation, supported by documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, claimed that in 1981 two paedophiles began targeting girls in a local children’s home and trafficked them around the country for sex with hundreds of men.
In another case, a 47-year- old woman said she was groomed by an Asian man when she was 14. After having his baby, he allegedly passed her round his friends and she was raped. she said a doctor told her she was mentally ill and, despite reporting the abuse to the council and her school, she does not think action was taken.
The majority of victims were young white girls but some were teens from Asian communities.
In 2016, the Home Office revealed Telford had the highest rate of sex crimes against children in the UK.
An NsPCC spokesman said: ‘The scale of the problem of child sexual exploitation in Telford and Wrekin is deeply concerning – so it is vital that action is taken to ensure
cases like those which sparked operation Chalice are prevented in future.’
A spokesman for Telford and Wrekin Council said: ‘All agencies continue to work very closely together and this remains our top priority.
‘our approach to CSe is now very different from 10-20 years ago. We have learned lots of lessons and are constantly on the lookout for indicators of CSe so that we can pass information on to police and bring these evil criminals to justice. Indeed, further cases are now coming to court.’ Assistant Chief Constable for West Mercia Police, Martin evans, said: ‘Police in Telford take all reports of child sexual exploitation, the systematic emotional, physical and psychological abuse of young people, and grooming, extremely seriously.
‘Tackling such horrific offences is the number one priority for police in Telford and we have not only increased officer numbers to tackle this type of offending, but use all of our resources and technology available to prosecute anyone who sexually offends against children whether that offending took place today, yesterday or decades ago.’
Young people worried about being sexually exploited can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk