A gang of ‘despicable predators’ who preyed upon vulnerable South Yorkshire girls ‘who just wanted to be loved’ have been found guilty of a string of sex offences.
The five victims were finally given justice this morning, when the jury of nine men and three women found Mohammed Imran Ali Akhtar, Nabeel Kurshid, Iqlaq Yousaf and Tanweer Ali, Salah Ahmed El-Hakam, Asif Ali and a seventh defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, guilty of 24 sex offences.
The offences took place in Rotherham between 1998 and 2005 when the all of the victims were children, one of whom was just 13-years-old when the abuse started.
When she opened the case at the beginning of the eight-week trial last month, Prosecutor Michelle Colborne QC told Sheffield Crown Court how the gang routinely plied their victims with alcohol and drugs
"When they were in their teens, they were targeted, sexualised and, in some instances, subjected to acts of a degrading and violent nature at the hands of these men who sit in the dock."
Ms Colborne said the girls had unsettled home lives. "None of them had the maturity to understand that they were being groomed and exploited," she said. The prosecutor said they ‘believed sex of some kind or other was a necessary price for friendship’.
Referring to two sisters who were abused by Ali-Akhtar and Ali, Ms Colborne added: “"These sisters, like so many others, were easy to exploit because they needed to be loved."
Throughout the course of the trial the court heard how the girls told that the abuse was mainly carried out at night in a variety of secluded or derelict locations, including empty houses where there was no electricity. They were often sexually abused on mattresses on the floor and locked in rooms so that they couldn’t escape.
One of the girls also recalled being driven to a remote spot by two of the men where one of them began to ‘grope’ her. She explained that when she became distressed he said, “it’s better if you just get it over and done with and then you can go back home”.
In a police interview played to the court, Girl B, said she had been abused by ‘100 Asian men by the time I was 16’.
The gang remained silent as Judge Sarah Wright remanded them into custody, ahead of their sentencing on November 16.
Yesterday’s convictions marked what, Robin Pearson, Investigations Manager for the National Crime Agency, described as a ‘significant milestone’ in Operation Stovewood – the NCA’s investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1998 and 2013.
Speaking after the hearing, he added: "All of the victims were young children, they were from largely vulnerable backgrounds, they were vulnerable to grooming techniques used by these men. Plied with alcohol, plied with drugs, made to think that the behaviour was normal. And then they were sexually abused passed around, purely for the gratification for the predators...and frankly their behaviour has been despicable throughout.”
The jury also acquitted Ajmal Rafiq, 39, of Warwick Street, Rotherham of the two counts of false imprisonment and indecent he faced.
The seventh defendant was also acquitted of one count of rape and one count of abducting a child.
The defendants and list of charges are: