At a pristine house on the outskirts of Derby, life is slowly getting back to some semblance of normality. The teenage girl living here is a college student who’s put photos of herself dancing and laughing with her friends on several social networking websites.Even the law-abiding "Asians" find this PC nonsense to be out of control.
A few miles away, another teenager, only a little older at 18, won a prize last month for being an ‘inspirational’ student at her college. A third girl, a child of 14, has a loving mother who waves her off to a Derby school each morning from a terrace home with a manicured front garden and picket fence.
The three girls from decent families have, almost certainly, never met. Yet each has become caught up in what’s believed to be the biggest case of serial sex abuse ever uncovered in Britain. This week, nine men from Derby were jailed for a string of offences against these girls and 24 others whom they groomed for sex.
The gang — all but one of whom were Asian — roamed the streets in a BMW with blacked-out windows looking for girls. They plied them with vodka from bottles and plastic cups hidden under the seats, before raping or abusing them. They were not the only victims in Derby. Up to 100 girls may have been ensnared in this horror after being lured by the smartly-dressed gang into the car outside school gates, shops, coffee bars near the city’s railway station and a local park.
Over weeks and months, the girls were taken to houses in Derby and other towns before being raped by the gang and their friends, some of whom paid the men in cash.
In rundown flats with mattresses on the floor, the girls were locked into rooms and turned into sex slaves. If they protested or refused, they were threatened with being beaten with a hammer and even told they would be shot. The depraved sex acts were filmed on mobile phones and may have now been sold on through internet pornography sites.
As one of the girls, a 16-year old raped by the gang, said through tears this week: ‘They would take you out, buy you ice creams and a lovely, nice meal. There’s a part of you who thinks it’s really exciting: “I have met this lovely man.” You feel like they’re going to keep you safe. They then abuse every part of you.’
If this was a one-off, it would be deeply troubling indeed. The reality is, it’s not. Many schoolgirls — one just eight — living in towns and cities all over the north of England are falling prey to gangs who groom them to be sex slaves for themselves or other men.
But as Emma, a 21-year-old who eight years ago became a sex slave in another northern town and now counsels other victims, told the Mail recently: ‘The truth is, most men running the gangs in the north of England are Asians of Pakistani origin. But very few of the authorities will say this.’
Instead, it has been left to some outstandingly brave members of the Muslim community, former MP Ann Cryer (who was roundly criticised for speaking her mind when seven years ago she said Asian gangs were raping white girls) and a handful of the girl victims to highlight the reasons behind this deafening silence.
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Lancashire-based Ramadhan Foundation, a charity working for peaceful harmony between different communities, has said: ‘I think the police are overcautious because they are afraid of being branded racist. These men are criminals and should be treated as criminals — whatever their race.’
In Derby this week, Shokat Lal, chairman of the city’s Pakistani Community Centre in the Normanton area — where many of the girls were taken to seedy flats and then sexually attacked by the gang – spoke out, too: ‘It is important that political correctness or fear of offending any particular group of people does not get in the way of protecting those who are vulnerable.