Child rape victim told 'not to speak to press' was arrested after media raised lack of charges


AN ALLEGED victim of child sex grooming gangs, who was warned by police at her school not to speak to the press about the case, was later arrested after the media raised questions with the force when it closed the case with no charges.

Humberside Police said it had urged victims of the alleged groomers not to speak to the press, in case it prejudiced the operation.

The alleged assault had happened two months earlier in April 2021, but the force had made no attempt to arrest her until July 2021, after receiving questions from the editor of this website.

However, it insisted that the July 2021 arrest of the teenager was carried out by different officers to those investigating the alleged grooming and in no way connected to that investigation or any media interest in the case.

She was later released and police even provided her with a new mobile phone.

It comes as West Mercia Police has said it will re-open a child sex grooming case she says she was a victim of in Shropshire if more victims come forward.

The force made the pledge to Essex News and Investigations after previously claiming it had passed the case to colleagues in Humberside Police, even though the alleged offences happened within its area in Shropshire.

It concerns allegations that a group of four girls missing from the care system were gang raped by up to 40 men in a flat.

We revealed details of the shocking case last July when we told the story of the Humberside girl who was able to repeatedly go missing, leading to her being groomed by gangs of men, while housed in specialist social care homes supposed to protect children from sex abuse, across the country.

The teenager, now 19, went missing 106 times over 30 months while she was moved between care homes across the country by East Riding of Yorkshire Council social services.

She claims to have come into contact with about 50 abusers and been raped multiple times from the age of 14.

The girl was subjected to sexual abuse by four separate groups of men in Cambridgeshire, Shropshire and London over just a four month period while she was housed in the specialist care homes designed to keep children safe.

Despite reports made to five police forces and a referral to the National Crime Agency (NCA) unit for safeguarding people from human trafficking, no charges were brought before the investigations were closed and serious sexual abuse allegedly continued.

The abuse happened, despite social services knowing she was at serious risk of falling victim to grooming gangs from at least 2016. Family court papers seen by Essex News and Investigations said she was put under a care plan in March 2016 amid concerns her mother was a victim of repeated domestic abuse and over the father's alleged drug and alcohol abuse.

It also said she was drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis and at risk of abuse through contact with adult males.

However, the most serious alleged sex abuse began after she was taken into care, according to the record of an application made by social services to move her to a secure care unit in the north west of the country heard at Kingston-Upon-Hull family court in late 2018.This included the allegations that she was raped by "multiple foreign men" in the flat in Shropshire with three other girls after she was able to go missing from a Cambridgeshire care home she was moved to in 2017 to limit her risk of child sex exploitation.

The Shropshire abuse is said to have happened in July 2018 when she went missing with another girl.

She said: "The abuse came more often travelling on trains to meet men in flats and takeaways."

One man was responsible for organising abuse in Shropshire that centred around a takeaway and several flats, she said.

He gave them keys to properties to go to and money and drinks for the night.

She said: "There were around 30 to 40 men in the flat when I woke up sore and bitten in a daze. I remember seeing loads of faces."

A media appeal had been run for help to locate her at the time while she was in the flat with these men and three other girls who were also reported missing.

In July 2021 West Mercia Police said it had passed the investigation to Humberside Police, which made no sense as the alleged offences were in Shropshire.

Detective Chief Inspector Jon Roberts, (below) from the West Mercia Police Vulnerability and Safeguarding Team, said at the time: "We conducted an investigation in July 2018 which involved a child from Humberside.

"We passed these details to our colleagues in Humberside Police and subsequently the investigation is now closed."

The force would not say why the case was not investigated locally.

Essex News and Investigations then asked Humberside Police what it did with the case and after several weeks of delays said it was referred back to West Mercia as the offences did not happen in Humberside.

Putting this back to West Mercia, we had to wait nearly a month for a response, which was entirely at odds with the earlier response, as the force now said three men had been arrested and the case was fully investigated, but some of the victims had not given statements at the time and it invited them to do so.

A West Mercia Police spokeswoman said: "A full investigation was carried out and three suspects arrested, however, due to insufficient evidence the case was unable to proceed. As part of the investigation a number of potential victims were contacted inviting them to speak to detectives and we would still encourage this. 

"Anyone who has been a victim of child sexual exploitation can speak to police at any time, regardless of when the exploitation took place, even if they do not wish to pursue criminal proceedings we can ensure they receive any support they may require.

"If further information comes to light in relation to this investigation, then this will be looked into."

There is also confusion from Humberside Police about whether it was investigating any of the girl's allegations, as she believed it had.

She believed she was classed as a victim in Humberside Police's Operation Marksman, which was set up to to look at child sex grooming offences on teenaged girls carried out by men from Hull.

More than 30 people were arrested, but it ended last year with no charges.

Humberside Police initially said it centred on claims from two girls who were abused within Humberside and two others trafficked to other areas, including the girl allegedly abused in Shropshire.

However, the force later said Marksman only concerned just the two girls allegedly abused in Humberside.

The girl who says she was abused in Shropshire said that after closing the case Humberside Police also told her that she had not been part of Marksman, which angered her greatly.

This was despite Marksman detectives previously visiting the girl at school to warn her not to speak to the press, which had also angered her due to frustration at no one being charged.

One of the Marksman victims, who says she was abused in Humberside said: "If she wasn’t part of Operation Marksman, why were they banging on her door and turning up at her school telling her not to speak to the media about the operation.

"I’m pretty sure she did video interviews for Marksman."

Humberside Police says that although Marksman closed last summer, it would be re-opened if new information came forward.

Last November Detective Chief Superintendent, Phillip Ward said: "Despite two years of intensive investigation, analysis and examination, we share the disappointment and frustration that we have been unable to identify sufficient evidence to corroborate or support the accounts given to us by the victims. "As a result, we have been unable to meet the Crown Prosecution Service’s evidential threshold for us to formally charge anyone in relation to Operation Marksman.

"Critically the investigation found no evidence of organised child sexual exploitation in any part of our community, either geographically or through ethnicity.

I would like to reiterate, that whilst current lines of enquiry have been exhausted, we will never fully close this investigation and I urge anyone with any new information, to get in touch with us as a priority. We will investigate all information provided to us.

“We encourage anyone that has been a victim of sexual abuse of any kind to get in touch using the non-emergency line, 101. You will be treated seriously, you will be provided appropriate support from the police and partner agencies and we will do everything we can to investigate the case fully and bring those that commit such crimes, to justice.”