icSouthLondon, April 18 2006
Immigration chiefs faced fury last night for allowing a member of a sordid Jamaican rape gang to make South London his hunting ground.
Sheldon Stewart, 26, was said to be part of the Buckles mob — a violent criminal outfit responsible for a spree of vile attacks in the Caribbean.
Their hallmark is said to be a sickening initiation ceremony where new recruits are instructed to abduct and rape.
Yet despite being know in his homeland as a gang member, Stewart, 26, was able to move to Britain where he has:
* raped a schoolgirl at gunpoint
* held a knife to another woman’s throat as he and a twisted accomplice tried to violate her
* taunted women who were prepared to stand up to him in court
* boasted of keeping young girls as SLAVES
Stewart was behind bars this week, facing a 12-year stretch for rape, attempted rape and possessing a gun.
But a scar-faced accomplice who took turns in raping the 15-year-old and is also a suspected Buckles member is still at large.
Victim support groups say the case highlights the disturbing ease in which potential sex attackers are able to slip unnoticed into the UK.
Their fury follows the rape and murder of schoolgirl Jeshma Raithatha by predator Viktors Dembovskis — welcomed to the UK despite a string of vile convictions in his native Latvia.
Immigration chiefs allowed Stewart into Britain in 2002, seemingly oblivious to the potential danger he posed.
This was because, like many gang members in the Caribbean, he lived under several street names making it hard for officials to keep accurate criminal records.
Tighter border controls were introduced in 2003, requiring Jamaican nationals to declare criminal convictions when applying to the UK, but even these are “not an automatic barrier” to the UK, the Home Office says.
Stewart first set up home in Streatham, then moved to Peak Hill, Sydenham, supposedly buying and selling cars for a living.
In reality he was forging links with local gangs and establishing his reputation as a man not to be crossed.
While his cold, dead eyes show not a flicker of emotion in the police mugshot, right, officers say he was charming and manipulative — winning over young women with his cars, designer clothes and bling.
Cops have probed Stewart’s activities between April and December 2004 and believe he “befriended” as many as four women a week.
He called these women “girlfriends” — but police fear many will have have been subjected to bullying and sexual abuse.
Inner London Crown Court heard how Stewart attacked a 15-year-old girl at gunpoint and dragged another woman into his flat in Peak Hill, Sydenham, after calling her “a white bitch”.
He and the scar-faced pal threatened to “burst” or shoot the first victim on November 25, 2004, if she didn’t submit to their sordid demands.
The girl had been lured into Stewart’s car on the promise of cannabis and a lift. Instead, both men took turns to rape her as a gun was held to her head.
Stewart targeted a second victim on December 30, 2004, first trying to chat her up, then bundling her into a car on the Tulse Hill Estate.
He called the 25-year-old a “white bitch” and drove her back to the Sydenham flat, where the accomplice was again waiting to pounce.
Stewart held a 7in long knife to the the sob-bing woman’s throat, but she kept calm and fooled the pair into letting her go to the toilet from where she fled.
The first girl, who was in social services care, was too afraid to give evidence.
But in an amazing show of bravery, she agreed to help nail Stewart after he phoned to taunt her over the allegations.
When cops from Streatham CID arrested the rapist at his girlfriend’s home in West Norwood, he claimed the 25-year-old was a prostitute and denied having sex with the teenager.
But jurors found him guilty of rape, sexual assault, kidnap, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of possessing a firearm or imitation firearm, and an additional charge of witness intimidation.
Passing sentence, Judge Lindsay Burn described Stewart’s indifference towards his crimes as “extraordinary.”
Sentencing the killer to 11 years for the sex attacks and a further year for witness intimidation, the judge added: “It’s evident to me that you thought you could behave towards women in this way and get away with it.
“There was no remorse whatsoever expressed by you for what you have done.”
Stewart still refuses to name the scar-faced accomplice who police believe has now fled overseas.
The fugitive is also said to be an alleged member of the Buckles gang.
A “wall of silence” has protected the mob in their homeland as few law-abiding Jamaicans are prepared to give evidence against them.
Detective Inspector Jonathan Wilson of Streatham CID said: “Our inquiries suggest that Stewart and his accomplice were former members of a criminal outfit called the Buckles gang who had committed similar offences in Jamaica.
“Stewart has shown he is an extremely dangerous man who poses a real threat to young woman and girls.
“He and his accomplice behaved in a despicable manner using violence casually against victims who did not consent to his sexual advances.”
Stewart’s conviction on March 24 could not be reported until today because prosecutors were considering the possibility of further charges for witness intimidation that have subsequently been left on file.
A Home Office spokesman refused to comment on “individual cases”, but said: “A criminal record is not an automatic barrier to entry to the United Kingdom.
“The Immigration database holds adverse information on individuals who we wish to prevent from entering the country.
“It contains certain details of overseas criminal convictions only where this information has been made available to the Police from an individual’s country of origin.”
Cops paid tribute yesterday to the extraordinary courage of Sheldon Stewart’s young victims.
Twisted Stewart and his scar-faced accomplice threatened them with guns and knives.
Stewart even phoned the 15-year-old from behind bars boasting he could “bust” the case if she co-operated with police.
But far from intimidating his young victim, the chilling call inspired her to give evidence to ensure he would stay locked up.
Detectives have also praised the ingenuity of his second victim, 25, who managed to outwit and escape her captors despite having been punched repeatedly in the face.
Investigating Detective Sergeant Yasmine Watson said: “I can’t begin to imagine the fear these women must have felt.
“Many victims were too scared to give evidence following direct and implied threats from Stewart and his accomplices.
“Both victims come from very different walks of life and both have shown unbelievable strength and determination in standing up to Stewart.”
Detectives pledged to continue their hunt for he scar-faced fugitive. And they warned women of all ages to avoid taking lifts with strangers.