Andy Dolan, Daily Mail (London), November 25, 2010
An Asian gang of ‘sexual predators’ cruised city streets for girls as young as 12–usually white–who were then plied with drink and drugs and raped or abused.
Up to 100 ‘vulnerable’ girls may have been groomed, abused or supplied cocaine by married fathers Abid Saddique and Mohammed Liaqat, and their friends.
A court heard the pair used Liaqat’s BMW saloon to trawl for victims, pulling up alongside girls outside shops or schools and chatting them up before a ‘campaign of calls and texts’ to groom them.
Saddique, 27, and Liaqat, 28, plied the victims–most from broken homes–with vodka and cocaine before taking them to ‘parties’ in hotels or flats with other gang members to rape or degrade them.
When girls refused their advances they were threatened with hammers or thrown out of cars.
Yesterday Saddique and Liaqat, each British-born and of Pakistani origin with an arranged marriage, faced years behind bars after being found guilty of a catalogue of sexual abuse over an 18-month period.
Reporting restrictions were lifted at the end of a third and final trial into the Derby gang’s activities.
Seven other guilty members of the gang have already been jailed.
One of 26 alleged victims concerned in the gang’s trials was a 14-year-old straight-A student from a middle-class home.
Meanwhile, one victim was in care, a second was with council foster parents and others were known to social services. Questions will now be asked about whether the various agencies worked well enough together to protect the girls.
The inquiry began in late 2008 when Saddique and Liaqat, both fathers-of-one, were arrested for shoplifting and two young girls were discovered with alcohol in their car.
Police swooped in April 2009 when two teenagers came out of a flat officers were watching and reported they had been raped. The surveillance teams had not known the girls were there.
After yesterday’s verdicts at Leicester Crown Court, a senior officer warned that child exploitation and abuse was a ‘hidden’ problem nationwide.
Detective Inspector Sean Dawson, of Derbyshire Police, said: ‘I would appeal to parents to monitor their children’s phones . . . and think about if they come home smelling of alcohol or clutching gifts. These are all signs that children could be being groomed.’
He said that although all of the victims were white except for three mixed-race girls and two Asians, the men were ‘out for whatever sex they could get’ and did not care what race their victims were. The oldest victim was 18 but most were aged between 14 and 16.
One girl described a sexual assault involving at least eight men, although charges in relation to that incident were not proceeded with.
Many attacks were filmed on mobile phones as ‘trophies’.
The inquiry, called Operation Retriever, is the biggest child sex investigation ever conducted by Derbyshire Police. A total of 75 charges were brought against 13 suspects–all of Derby. Four were cleared.
Saddique, from Normanton, Derby, was convicted of four rapes, two false imprisonment charges, aiding and abetting rape, three counts of sexual activity with a child, two sexual assaults, being involved with child pornography and attempting to pervert the course of justice. An additional rape charge was ordered to lie on the file when the jury could not reach a verdict.
Unemployed Liaqat, of Sinfin, Derby, was convicted of rape, aiding and abetting rape, being involved with child pornography, two sexual assaults, four counts of sexual activity with a child, and affray.
Of the other defendants, Akshay Kumar, 38, Faisal Mehmood, 24, Mohamed Imran Rehman, 26, Ziafat Yasin, 31, and Graham Blackham, 26–a convicted sex offender who was the only non-Asian member of the gang to face a judge–have already been jailed after being convicted of a string of sex or drug offences.
Liaqat’s brother, Naweed, 33, and Farooq Amed, 28, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and were both jailed for 18 months.
Convictions were achieved in relation to 15 of the 26 victims across the three trials.
Saddique and Liaqat will be sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court in January.
A Serious Case Review by Derby Safeguarding Children Board is due to be published about the case imminently.
‘At first I saw them as father figures’
One victim, who was raped in a car after being driven to a country lane by Liaqat and a second man, told how she was targeted aged 16 after telling the men she came from a broken home.
She said: ‘They would take you out, buy you ice creams and take you out for a lovely nice meal. And there’s part of you that thinks it’s really exciting and there’s part of you that thinks, “I have met this lovely nice man and he’s taking me out for a really nice meal”.
‘And there’s part of you that looks at these men as a father figure, as weird as it sounds, because you feel like they’re going to keep you safe and they then abuse every part of that.
‘They make you feel the most insecure you have felt in your entire life.’
The brunette, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, repeatedly broke down in tears as she recounted her ordeal in an interview with the BBC.
She said the gang asked questions such as ‘Who do you live with?’ in order to work out ‘what kind of protection you’ve got, what kind of safety you’ve got, who’s going to stick up for you if they do anything’.
She added: ‘They actually take advantage of the fact that no one does care about you really. They make you feel as if they’re on your side and that you are in a real relationship and they just abuse any feelings of love and caring about people. I think they’re evil. I just cannot understand what has made them so evil.’
During the first trial in March, the teenager told the jury she was picked up around 1am then the men bought vodka at a petrol station.
After pulling up in the lane, they got into the back of the car, sitting on either side of her, and began molesting her. She was then forced down and restrained as one of the men raped her.
Sobbing, the teenager told the court that her attacker then got back in the driver’s seat and ‘put the music on and acted like nothing had happened’.
[Editor’s Note: Another story about Pakistanis who kidnapped and raped white children can be read here. It is unclear whether these stories are connected.]