'Only solution was to keep moving me' - girl victim to '50 child sex groomers while living in care'
A GIRL 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. The teenager, now 18, 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, from the Humberside area, 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. Her mother now wants a serious case review to be carried out to look into how it was able to happen and why no charges were possible. The girl is one of four who made allegations to Humberside Police about being abused by grooming gangs.
They spoke of their devastation after the force said no charges would follow despite 34 men being arrested and a two-year investigation, as revealed this month. 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 allegations she was raped by "multiple foreign men" in a flat in Shropshire with four 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.
Her mother claims she was put in greater danger while under the care of social workers when the sexual abuse began and escalated. She said: "I want there to be a serious case review to look at how this was possible while she was supposed to under protection and what the police did to investigate. It all needs looking at.
"We were told she was fine then had to hear all this in the court hearing.
"All she wanted to do was come back home, but every time she was abused they just moved her on out of the way and it happened again.
"There were times when social workers said it was my daughter's fault."
The Maggie Oliver Foundation was set up by former Greater Manchester Police (GMP) detective Maggie Oliver, who resigned after blowing the whistle on the force's failings in the Rochford sex grooming scandal.
Rick Pendlebury, (above) another former GMP officer, tries to get cases re-opened by police forces for the foundation.
He said: "We would welcome a serious case review to find out how this was possible while in the care system and what exactly each police force did."
After going missing from foster placements and a care home in the Humberside area, the girl was moved in 2017 to a specialist care home in Cambridgeshire "for her safety" and to disrupt local associations with older men after she was deemed to be at "high risk of sexual exploitation."
The court record said before the move in early 2017 she "went missing in Bradford for 13 days in the company of older Asian men" with drugs involved.
But, it added that in Cambridgeshire she remained at risk with other care home residents.
It said: "The girls were in communication with adult males and were present at addresses known to be involved in grooming and child sexual exploitation."
The girl said: "This is where the abuse started to get worse. I lived with children who had been through so much abuse." describing an incident in May 2018, she said: "A man of 50 or 60, with another in his 30s, spotted us at the bus stop and we told him we were 14 and 15, but he gave
us drugs and alcohol and asked us for pictures in exchange for money.
"Because we wouldn’t let him have pictures he raped me and rang his friend to do the same too. "The rapes happened in a flat after the bus stop incident, he drove us around and took us to his flat. "He then threw money at me and told us to leave." Cambridgeshire Police said it "thoroughly investigated" her allegations in 2018 when a man was arrested but released with no further action. In July 2018 there was further alleged abuse 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.
But, West Mercia Police, which is responsible for policing Shropshire passed the case to Humberside Police. Detective Chief Inspector Jon Roberts (above), from the West Mercia Police Vulnerability and Safeguarding Team, said: "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. After this incident, it was reported to the NCA. The court document said: "This was reported to the NCA who assessed this as there being reasonable grounds that (she) has been a subject of trafficking. "This assessment is ongoing and regular updates are provided to them in relation to (her) continued missing episodes and allegations."
However, she told Essex News and Investigations she never heard anything back from this. The NCA was asked what it did as a result of the updates, and a spokesman said its National Referral Mechanism for trafficking victims had since passed to the Home Office along with its records and it was down to local authorities to safeguard victims. The Home Office said it would not comment on an individual case.
She was also moved days later to a Bedfordshire children's home that specialised in child sex exploitation victims, but continued to go missing and come into contact with sex abusers and alleged to have been raped on two separate occasions while missing in parts of London. The court record said: "(She) is frequently missing from her residential home in Bedford. She is going missing with other girls for days at a time and there are ongoing investigations in relation to (her) being a victim of modern slavery and allegations of sexual abuse." It added that she told social workers a flat they were taken to was filthy and the men were animals, but added that she was unwilling to "accept help and stop putting herself at risk."
She said: "They moved me so far from places because it was easier to keep me out of the county away from Hull, friends and family - ‘out of sight out of mind’ in a sense. "They said because I was ‘high risk’ that is why they moved me but abuse only ever happened in other areas." She said: "It only got worse. More men, more rapes. The lack of support and the isolation from family and friends was awful. "They were also four other girls in placement who experienced serious abuse. "These are the girls who I saw get raped in front of me and then that is where the abuse in London started." She said she has done four interviews with different police forces, each of which lasted several hours. One was with Bedfordshire Police, but the force said the case was passed to the Met Police, but no charges followed. A Met Police spokesman said: "In September 2018 the Metropolitan Police received an allegation of child sexual exploitation. An investigation was undertaken and one man was interviewed under caution – he was subsequently released with no further action." After the court hearing she was moved from Bedfordshire to a secure unit in the north west of the country. While housed there, she said she was picked up by a man aged in his 40s. He drove to Cumbria to pick up her friend, who had been placed there by East Riding of Yorkshire social services. She said he drove them both to Hull and bought them vodka and drove them around all night.
He tried to get them to go to his home, but she persuaded him to drop her at her mother's in Hull before "kidnapping" her friend and taking her to his house. She said: "Police came to my house to ask questions about the male." He was arrested but never charged.
Social services tried to move her to Bradford, which has had documented problems with child grooming gangs, but she went to court. She said: "The judge declined as it was not suitable for obvious reasons of child sex exploitation (CSE) and my being vulnerable. He ordered they find me a placement in Hull or East Riding as I was settled with no CSE involvement." After she had a child, social services gave her a mother and baby placement in a town where one of the abusers lives. She said: "I’m sickened to say they failed me as a child and now I have to live with this for the rest of my life. "I never got a say in where I went. I could shout and scream at the top of my lungs about how unsafe I felt, but they still kept me in the same area.
"I rang the manager of the social work team at the time and cried to her so many times because I wanted to be in my home town. "The only solution to social care and the police was to keep moving me." Eoin Rush, (above) director of children, families and schools at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The case involving this young woman is very complex and she has shown a great deal of courage in coming forward and reporting these allegations to the police.
“The council has provided support and offered help to this young woman over a number of years, and she continues to receive support from our social workers to this day.
“In response to her very challenging circumstances some years ago, this young woman was cared for at different locations across the country.
“This young person’s circumstances and experiences have been regularly reviewed by agencies and she has recently actively worked alongside professionals to help develop and improve our multi-agency response arrangements.
“Child sexual exploitation is an issue facing towns and cities across the country and while new multi-agency approaches to tackling this scourge have become increasingly effective there is no simple solution.
“Like many other local authorities, we are constantly reviewing our approach, including working with survivors of this crime, to tackling this issue to make sure that together with our partners in the police and health we can work with parents and others to keep children safe.
“We have worked closely with Humberside Police as part of Operation Marksman, and while this specific operation has now concluded, Police colleagues are very clear that should new information come to light they will re-open the investigation.
“I would encourage anyone with any information to report their concerns to the police.”