London - An Asian grooming gang repeatedly raped and abused teenage girls in a van they called the ‘s**gwagon’, a court heard.
Eight men befriended vulnerable girls aged 13 to 17 and plied them with drink and drugs before taking them to ‘sex parties’.
Jailing six of the group for a total of almost 90 years on Wednesday, a judge said the police had uncovered ‘systematic and widespread grooming’ and branded the gang ‘predatory and cynical’.
The case is the latest in a string of grooming gang scandals. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said last night: ‘As a father myself, I am glad that this barbaric group of men are finally behind bars. As the Home Secretary, I will do all in my power to leave the callous cowards who groom and sexually abuse children with no place to hide.’
The men coerced their five victims into sex at a number of addresses across Oxford including B&Bs – and at least one address in London, Oxford Crown Court heard.
Other sex attacks unfolded in cars parked in lay-bys or at parks in the university city. Some of the girls were picked up in cars, the court heard, but many recalled a black Nissan Serena people carrier which the attackers nicknamed their ‘s**gwagon’.
The court heard the vehicle, which had a licence plate ending in SHG, was used in many of the attacks, including gang rapes. One victim said: ‘They would pick the girls, have sex with them, and dump them. Everything happened in that Serena.’ The same woman said the men would ‘take it in turns’ to have sex with her and gang rapes would take place after she was plied with alcohol and drugs.
Another victim described being pressured into sex at numerous locations across Oxford, including woods, lay-bys and near Oxford City FC’s Court Place Farm ground. She told jurors how four of the defendants – Assad Hussain, Kameer Iqbal, Khalid Hussain and Alladitta Yousaf – had all abused or raped her on various occasions.
Another woman, who was 14 at the time, was sexually assaulted by Moinul Islam at a B&B in the city, the court heard.
A fourth victim told police once investigations had begun in 2015 that she was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted, adding: ‘[They] made you believe they actually care about you, and they actually don’t. Like you are something important to them, that you are a friend to them.
‘And, really, it wasn’t that. It was just to get what they want.’
Jurors recorded the final conviction against the gang in March, after almost 108 hours of deliberations over the course of 24 days. It brought an end to a trial which had begun the previous October.
Judge Peter Ross said the ‘sinister’ gang’s victims ‘were brought into the group through flattery, making them feel a sense of belonging’. He added: ‘It is clear that there were hundreds of episodes of sexual abuse. The impact on the victims of these offences has been shattering.
‘It must be remembered that each of you in your own way played a part in destroying the lives of these young women.’ The judge said police were ‘entitled to commendations’ for their work in bringing the men to justice, and thanked jurors for their ‘phenomenal’ dedication to what became the longest jury deliberation in Oxford Crown Court history.
Defence barristers claimed the gang were ‘immature’. Mark George QC, defending Assad Hussain, pointed to his client’s upbringing in the Muslim community, which he said ‘does have a tendency to encourage clandestine relationships’ because he was not allowed to bring girlfriends home or have sex before marriage. Appearing for sentence yesterday, the eight men were jailed for between seven and 15 years each for a range of offences including rape and sexual assault.
Hussain, 37, Islam, 42, Iqbal, 39, and 38-year-old Khalid Hussain were all handed lengthy sentences for rape. Haji Khan, 38, got ten years for conspiracy to rape, while Yousaf, 48, was handed seven years for indecent assault.
Raheem Ahmed, 41, and Kamran Khan, 36, were jailed in April for indecent assault and false imprisonment. A ninth defendant, Saboor Abdul, was acquitted of rape. Speaking after the case, prosecutor Adrian Foster called their actions ‘abhorrent’.
Thames Valley Police said the victims were from a ‘variety of backgrounds’. The case follows a series of other prosecutions around the country of predominantly Asian grooming gangs who targeted mainly white victims.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, of the National Police Chief’s Council, has warned that grooming is taking place ‘in towns and cities up and down the country’.