No one believed these girls were being abused by multiple men - then one man did; and a horrific world of sex trafficking of children was exposed.
“It’s very clear that abusers in Rochdale were laughing.”
Jon Brown, NSPCC
“The people that should have been looking after these girls were effectively turning a blind eye to rape.”
Nigel Bunyan, Journalist & Ghost Writer of ‘Girl A: My Story’
Lily is born into a world of drink and drug abuse. She tries to block out much of the ‘hectic’ life around her, certain only of one thing: She is unloved. By the age of 11, she’s already lost her father and her mother’s become an alcoholic. But, unbelievably, the next five years of her life will be far, far worse.
Due to her mother’s deteriorating condition, Lily is placed with a foster carer. But, feeling unwanted, she often simply stays out, all day, and as long into the night as she can.
A 19 year old guy, known to her foster carer, invites the eleven year old Lily to a family event. As he knows her foster carer to chat and say hello to, Lilly accepts the invitation. Once there, he gives her drink and then takes her into a bedroom;
“…he started kissing me…I felt really good because it was like the first time I’d felt loved.”
What she believes her first intimacy, is in fact, her first sexual assault. She innocently tells her Foster Carer who promptly tells the Police and Rochdale Social Services. The experience deeply confuses the already very damaged little girl.
“When the police came round…I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know anything was wrong - no one really explained to me…social services, they just left me.”
Aged 13, Lily is allowed to move back in with her mum. But feeling less like a daughter, and more like a carer to her still alcohol dependent mother, Lily seeks comfort from other adults. She finds some older men are all too willing to freely give her attention, compliments, and cigarettes, and alcohol. They appear to care for her and Lily desperately needs that. But they’re not interested in Lily. Only in her sex.
ABDUL HUK aka SAJ
Abdul Huk is a 32 year old taxi driver. When Lily is just 15, when she’s walking out of school, he approaches her. He asks if she’s ok. Abdul appears to be concerned which Lily says, ‘felt nice because it was that care that I wasn’t receiving anywhere else.’
He offers to take her home and only asks in exchange to swap phone numbers.
Abdul Huk is grooming Lily.
A couple of weeks pass. He rings Lily and asks to see her. He drives her up an alley near the big church in Rochdale. "We just parked there. And then did like foreplay.”
This encounter is the start of many. Each time, as he picks her up, he gives her a cigarette as she gets in. And then after, after the ‘foreplay’, he gives her the rest of the packet.
“I didn’t really see it as the time, but now that I’m older and looking back, it seems a bit like payment.”
Lily starts hanging out with another Asian male and she begins to receive phone calls off men she doesn’t know. They invite her to come round. When she does, a now familiar exchange of cigarettes and alcohol in return for sex follows. “I felt like it was my boyfriend and that’s what you do - plus, they’d brought me beer so you know, (you) can’t really say no.”
Still not even at the age of consent, aged just 15, Lily now believes herself in a relationship with a 22-year-old man, a Congolese refugee called Freddy Kendukumana. At first, Lily believes he is special, he is the one. She believes they are partners.
That all changes when she tries to refuse him sex.
“I said ‘no’ and then he didn’t take no for an answer…if he wanted something it was either ‘yes’ or it happen in a bad way…he started becoming violent, started hitting me.”
Only after Lily discusses her relationship with a sexual health worker does she realise she’s been raped.
But when Lily reports Freddy to the police, it appears to her that they’re not interested. So Lily returns to the men who are very interested in a 15 year old girl.
Lily is now in a relationship with a 23-year-old Rochdale man, a takeaway worker called Roheez Khan. Lily goes on holiday with her mum during the summer of 2009. During this break, and approaching her 16th birthday, she decides to break away from Roheez - and others like him.
But when she returns, she finds Roheez will do nearly anything to stop her leaving him.
“…he’d smash my windows, he made threats, he said he was gonna to plant drugs in my house…It was really terrifying and the longer I tried to break away the worse it got.”
Lily is not the only girl abused in this way in the Rochdale area. There is also another child, known only, for legal reasons, as Girl A. But in one brutal encounter, the childhood of Girl A will be ripped away.
Shabir Ahmed is just 14 when he first comes to Britain in 1967. To his later victims, his nickname is the ‘Daddy’. In 2008, Girl A accuses the now 55 year-old Shabir Ahmed of rape. But like Lily, the allegations of Girl A appear not be taken seriously.
Later investigations would indicate that not only was Shabir Ahmed indeed a rapist, but that he was, in fact, a ringleader of a large grooming gang.
One judge describes him as a ‘violent hypocritical bully’.
When, in June 2012, Shabir Ahmed is also convicted of 30 charges of rape of a young Asian girl for over a decade, as the jury returns their unanimous guilty verdicts, he smirks.
After his convictions, Home Secretary Theresa May decides to strip him of his citizenship. But in February 2016, the 63 year-old convicted child sex offender launches an appeal against his deportation. He believes his trial was ‘institutionally racist.’ He subsequently loses his appeal.
This Birmingham born boy takes and absorbs his childhood experiences of being bullied and racially abused - his father was Pashtun - and determines to pursue a career in law. He’s later awarded an OBE in 2005 for his services to law and the local community. And he makes history when he becomes the first Muslim to be appointed the Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England in 2011. During his time as a crown prosecutor, he is responsible for more than 100,000 prosecutions a year.
Perhaps one of his most important, and certainly high profile, is his decision to overturn a Crown Prosecution Service decision not to prosecute Shabir Ahmed. It leads to the exposure of the sex trafficking of children on an organised scale that was thought beforehand to be inconceivable. He attributed his success, in a newspaper interview, as partly due to his Pashtun background.
“My Pakistani heritage helped cut through barriers within the black and minority ethnic communities…white professionals’ oversensitivity to political correctness and fear of appearing racist may well have contributed to justice being stalled.”