Detective issues social networks warning after three men are convicted of grooming girls

Darlington and Stockton Times: Sakib Ahmed Sakib Ahmed

A SENIOR detective has warned parents to monitor the social networks their children use after three men were convicted of grooming girls as young as 13 and exploiting them for sex.

Taxi driver Shakil Munir, 32, picked up one Middlesbrough 14-year-old in his car and had sex with her in a lay-by. In the same week he took a 13-year-old to a "chill-pad" for sex, Teesside Crown Court heard.

A jury at Teesside Crown Court found that a total of six girls were victims of child sexual exploitation.

And now details of two of the perverts - Sakib Ahmed, 19, and his friend Ateeq Latif, 17 - can be reported for the first time.

Orders banning the media from identifying the pair were lifted at the end of a long-running trial today (Thursday, December 5).

On the eve of the trial, Ahmed, 19, admitted sexual activity with a child - charges relating to five under-age victims.

He would take girls out for a drive and then pressure them into giving him oral sex or full intercourse.

His friend, 17-year-old Latif, was convicted by the jury today of two counts of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.

He helped Ahmed by going along with him on drives, then taking one girl away for a walk to leave his friend alone in the car with a young victim.

After the case, senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Dino Carlucci, paid tribute to the bravery of the girls who gave evidence - and warned parents to be vigilant about the dangers their children can face.

"This has been an arduous and protracted inquiry for all involved and particularly for the young victims, who I commend for having the strength to see this through until the end," he said.

"It hasn't been easy for them, or their loved ones, but hopefully now they can put this behind them and look forward to bright futures.

"These men preyed on young, vulnerable girls by befriending them and securing their trust and then exploited it.

"I hope the verdicts send out a clear message to anyone involved in this type of abuse and exploitation that we will catch up with you and you will potentially be looking at going to prison.

"Grooming affects girls from all walks of life and different social backgrounds.

"I would urge parents to ensure they know who their children are talking to on social networking sites, where their children are, who they are going out with, how they are getting there and what means they have to pay for their journey and evening.

"If you don't think they have the means to finance it, you must question yourself, and them."

The court heard that Munir sent one of his victims hundreds of messages on Facebook after he befriended her one night. Many of the messages they exchanged were explicit.

His other victim, who is now in care, was just 13 when he took her to a flat for sex.

He was convicted of four counts of sexual activity with a child and one of abduction - relating to driving off with the 14-year-old.

Detectives believed he had many young "friends" on Facebook.

Ahmed used BlackBerry messaging to contact his victims, manipulating the girls into thinking he liked them, then pressuring them for sex.

He met one girl at an under-18s disco at a nightclub, and when she told him she was only 14, he replied: "Pretend you're 16."

He grabbed her and kissed her roughly in the toilets. Later, when her mother was driving her home, he began messaging her BlackBerry to set up another meeting.

He got her on a date and parked up near a field and pressured her into having sex.

Before the case opened, Judge John Walford urged the jury not to draw comparisons with similar grooming cases elsewhere in the country.

"For reasons which I hope are obvious, not least because you must decide the case on the evidence and only the evidence, it's important you disregard any views which you may have heard or found about what happened in other towns and cities involving different groups of people on different occasions in the past," he said.

Munir, of Tollesby Road, Latif, of Abingdon Road, and Ahmed, of Cambridge Road, all Middlesbrough, will be sentenced at a later date.

Ibrar Mahmood, 18, of Breckon Hill Road, and Junaid Butt, 18, of Kensington Road, also Middlesbrough, were cleared of all charges they faced.

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