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How men lured vulnerable girls into dangerous world
THREE men from Middlesbrough are facing lengthy jail sentences for grooming and abusing under-age girls. JOE WILLIS reports.
SHOWERED with compliments, given free taxi rides, food and cigarettes – it is not hard to see how seven vulnerable girls were lured into a dangerous world.
But when the gifts and flattery failed, the men quickly resorted to threats, intimidation and blackmail to get what they wanted.
Over the six-week trial, the jury heard how the loosely connected group of defendants worked independently and together to exploit the girls.
Chance meetings were seized upon by the men to befriend their young victims. Once contact was made, Facebook and the BlackBerry Messenger service were used to groom the girls.
In one of the most harrowing examples of abuse, the court heard how 32-year-old Shakil Munir picked up three of the girls in his taxi.
Over the next fortnight he exchanged messages with one of the youngsters, who was aged just 14, before collecting her in the early hours of the morning when she was still wearing her pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers under the pretence of getting her some cigarettes from a 24-hour garage.
But instead Munir drove the girl down the A19 to Stokesley.
After parking in a lay-by he asked for oral sex. When the girl - who was by now frightened and feeling uncomfortable - laughed off his advances, Munir asked her: “What would you do if I threw you out of the car now?”
Thinking he would carry out the threat, the girl gave in and the pair had sex.
By the time Munir returned the girl, her mother was extremely worried. She confronted the taxi driver and demanded that he stay away from her daughter, only for the defendant to later lie to police and claim she had asked for money to keep quiet.
A few days later, Munir picked up a girl from a Middlesbrough care home despite knowing she was only 13.
He told her she was pretty and they had sex in a lay-by. The defendant then returned the girl back to the care home at 1.30am.
Ateeq Latif, 17, was found guilty of helping Ahmed exploit the girls by ensuring his friend could be alone with his intended victims.
Ahmed, who pleaded guilty before the start of the trial, was the most prolific offender in the group, having sexual activity with five girls. Several girls told police how they feared Ahmed could be violent if they did not do what he wanted.
One of the girls told police she initially liked her abuser but later came to realise she had been used. Others said they felt they were somehow at fault.
All the girls are now needing help to get their lives back on track after being groomed and exploited on the streets of a North-East town.
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