Nick Gutteridge, Express, August 9, 2016
Express.co.uk has pieced together shocking testimony from victims, campaigners and local residents in a large-scale investigation series being revealed throughout this week.
They all told us how police and the local council is still “failing” thousands of vulnerable girls.
It reveals how organised, criminal gangs of paedophiles are still using the town as their own personal fiefdom, peddling underage girls for sex as part of a multi-million pound crime empire.
The men are predominantly from the city of Mirpur in the disputed region of Kashmir, on the border between Pakistan and India.
Express.co.uk has chosen to refer to the abusers as Kashmiri or Mirpuri after hearing how many mainstream British Pakistanis are disgusted by the actions of a few men from those communities.
Today an investigation by this website lifts the lid on the shocking scale of abuse still going on in Rotherham, two years after a landmark report into the scandal ruled police and council workers had ignored the issue for fear of being branded racist.
Professor Alexis Jay’s astonishing probe revealed at least 1,400 girls were groomed by sex gangs between 1997 and 2013, and unearthed a series of scandalous failings by local authorities.
A recent follow-up report, published by Professor John Drew in March, concluded that the police are now “adequately” tackling child grooming and that historic failures had been “isolated”.
But testimony, pieced together from independent sources, paints a starkly different picture of the authorities’ response.
A number of people who gave evidence to Professor Drew’s inquiry expressed open dismay at his findings and told us the grooming of girls is as bad now as it has ever been.
And many have told Express.co.uk of their outright anger the police and local council workers have not done more to crack down on the grooming gangs.
One victim, who we have called Ellie to protect her identity, said: “Raping of white girls by these men is still going on. Some, I know, have had to wait months before they’re even asked to give a statement [to the police]. It’s shockingly bad still.”
In light of the scandalous failings of South Yorkshire Police (SYP) to tackle child sexual exploitation the Government sent in the National Crime Agency (NCA) to oversee the inquiry.
The investigation–called Operation Stovewood–is currently probing more than 7,000 lines of inquiry.
But Ellie said: “What have the National Crime Agency been doing for the last 18 months with their £10million? No arrests yet? We’re feeling desperate and disheartened.”
Another girl, going under the pseudonym Lizzie, said: “I know a few girls who have come forward recently and been told they are being racist and I know a lot that won’t come forward and to be fair I can’t blame them.
“Nothing has changed, not in the slightest. It’s still the same scale as before.”
Lizzie’s was one of a number of testimonies Express.co.uk heard detailing how abuse is going on in plain sight, with victims, campaigners and neighbours all able to direct this website to the areas where the grooming gangs operate freely in the terraced streets.
She added: “It doesn’t shock me anymore because I’m used to hearing it. You hear it on a daily basis, about new girls on a daily basis.
“All you can do really is help them, and I wouldn’t advise people to go to the police because they don’t do anything. I’d rather take it into my own hands.”
A third victim said: “It’s just as bad as it was before because they just don’t care–they don’t want to tackle it.”
In shocking testimony the father of one girl who was raped by the criminal gangs told how packs of young Kashmiri men linked to her abuser still turn up outside his home to intimidate the family.
One of the ways the grooming gangs were able to get away with their crimes for so long was due to a coordinated campaign of witness intimidation, which made the girls and their families too scared to speak out.
Recalling a series of incidents which took place in March this year, he said: “Every night for 13 nights out of 14 between midnight and 1am we had people coming and knocking on the door saying it was takeaways. We don’t really eat takeaways, and when we looked through the spy hole they had no food and you could see a car full of Asians.
“We had my granddaughter for the day nine weeks ago and we took the dog for a walk. On the way back I noticed two BMWs full of Asians.
“We were going past and we heard them saying something, but we just ignored it. We got across the road and all of a sudden we started hearing this abuse ‘you white bastards, don’t think your daughter is safe’, things of that nature.
“There was no one else in the street so it was obviously aimed at us. The next moment this big Pakistani guy with a shaven head–he was wearing some sort of robes–put his arm out of the car window and he was waving a tin of lighter fuel shouting ‘we will see, we will see’.”
He added: “These groomers, these paedophiles are still running this town and the police are still doing what they were doing back in the day–nothing. Children in this town are at risk now and it’s appalling.”
His comments were echoed by a former social worker who helps victims of abuse. They agreed grooming is still happening on an “industrial scale” and said new girls are still coming forward every week with harrowing tales.
They said: “We’ve seen slight improvements–and I emphasise the word slight–but I don’t think they’ve come fast enough and I sometimes have to question if we’ve got to a stage where if we don’t hear too much about it it’s going to go away.”
In many instances the abuse is so open that neighbours in the town are aware it is going on.
But they say they feel powerless to act because of police indifference and the vice-like grip the criminal grooming gangs have achieved.
A concerned resident told Express.co.uk he regularly saw cars full of abusers kerb crawling in the area around his home, adding it is an open secret taxi drivers still target local schools at home time in the hope of picking up young girls.
The man–a former university lecturer–said he was “furious” grooming is still going on so openly despite the public outcry.
He said: “It’s not stopped and I’m furious about it. It’s rampant and it’s very, very wrong.
“I’ve seen the young men and they are like dogs on heat outside the house, they won’t go away. They are outside a white girl’s house, the kid is screaming in the kitchen, the men want to get in and screw her but the police aren’t interested.”
And one local source told this website: “Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is definitely still going on. There’s a segment of the Rotherham population that still believes itself to be above the law, and all of those people expect to be found not guilty if they end up before the courts.”
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said abuse is “still going on” in the town and that she still gets new girls coming to her on a regular basis, although the numbers have dropped off.
She said: “These are new cases, these are ongoing cases, these are live cases. What I’m seeing is there’s a lot people coming forward with peer on peer abuse and it’s not so much the older Pakistani man that I’m hearing as a perpetrator.
“We shouldn’t accept it’s an inevitability. We’ve got young people growing up not knowing what consent is, so I’m not surprised the age range is starting to drop.”
Lawyer David Greenwood from Switalskis solicitors, who has represented dozens of girls abused by Rotherham’s grooming gangs, said there are now six “splinter groups” of paedophiles operating in the town.
He added: “I strongly feel this is happening today in many towns across the country. You’ll be able to find parents who are complaining to the police and not being taken seriously, and who are suffering the frustrations that the parents were suffering in Rotherham 15 years ago.
“Some police forces are good at dealing with missing persons and some not so good. Some forces aren’t good at teaming up missing persons reports with this kind of suspicious grooming activity.”
Campaigner Anne Marie Waters, who carried out her own investigation into the Rotherham sex attacks, said the child grooming business is as booming as ever, adding victims who felt let down by the police and social services are “too scared” to speak out.
She said: “Everyone I spoke to agreed on the fact that it’s still going on whether it was child abuse victims, police, councillors–nothing has changed.”
Official data from South Yorkshire Police shows the force has recorded 161 offences of CSE in Rotherham since April last year alone.
In the same period they have charged 40 people with child sex offences, whilst there are currently 99 live investigations into grooming cases ongoing.
South Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Rachel Barber, said: “We accept child sexual exploitation is a pervasive crime that continues to happen within our communities.
“Protecting children from this horrific abuse is an absolute priority and we are working incredibly hard alongside victims and survivors, local authorities, charities like Barnardo’s and other voluntary organisations to raise awareness of this crime and to understand how we can better identify those at risk.”
Rotherham Council Leader, Cllr Chris Read, added: “Tragically there will always be criminals who want to hurt vulnerable young people, and we know children are still being exploited in communities up and down the country, including in Rotherham.
“We know too that in the past there were serious failings in Rotherham. But the way we deal with child sexual exploitation today is very different than in the past. We have heard from victims and survivors who have directly informed our response–we are listening, and taking action alongside the police and other partners to keep young people safe, to disrupt offenders and to secure justice.
“Rotherham is in a stronger place, but the fight against those who seek to harm our young people continues and we all agree that there is more work still to do. We always want to hear from people who have views about our services, and how we might better meet people’s needs, so would encourage people to get in touch with us.”