In Telford, more than 1000 children were raped or sexually exploited in the last 30 years. The abuse was largely ignored by police and council officials who feared investigating Asian men would “inflame racial tensions”, an inquiry concluded.

It was found that the men who operated a Wellington “rape house” used a sex-room method to brainwash children. 

Telford and Wrekin Council launched a public inquiry after an investigation by Sunday Mirror in 2018. It found that approximately 1,000 children were sexually exploited over a period of 30 years in Shropshire. 

The report, published today, makes 47 recommendations for improvement among the involved agencies, after its chairman Tom Crowther QC concluded that the abuse had gone unchecked for decades.

West Mercia Police has apologized to Telford’s children for their sexual exploits over the last 30 years. Telford Council and Telford also offered an apology.

Richard Cooper, Assistant Chief Constabulary, apologized on behalf the force. We are sorry to all the victims of child sexual abuse in Telford and those who were affected.

“While no evidence of corruption was found, our actions were far below the protection and help you would have received from us. It was unacceptable.

“It is crucial that we reflect now critically and thoughtfully on the context of this report and all the recommendations made.”

Becky Watson suffered two years of sex abuse at the hands of a grooming gang, which began when she was 11. She was 13 when she died in March 2002 after falling from the bonnet of a car near her youth club, in what driver Ahmed Nawaz claimed was a 'prank' which went tragically wrong

Vicky Round, a friend of Becky's, was abused by the same gang. She was just 20 when she died of a suspected overdose. She had been forced into crack cocaine and heroin addiction by her abusers

Becky Watson was subject to two years’ worth of sexual abuse by a grooming group. She was eleven when it began and was overthrown in an accident that resulted in her death at age 13. Vicky Round (right), who was a friend, was also victim to the same gang. At the age of 20, she overdosed and died.

Lucy Lowe was 16 and pregnant with her second child when she was murdered alongside her sister Sarah, 17, and their mother Eileen, 49, in a house fire in Telford set by Lucy's boyfriend, Azhar Ali Mehmood

Lucy Lowe, 16, was pregnant with her second baby when her brother Azhar Ali Mehmood set fire to her Telford home.

This inquiry found that at least 1,000 children were sexually exploited by men running a Telford ‘rapehouse’ over a period of 30 years. It was also surrounded by’shockingly’ failings in police and council.

According to a report, Telford’s children were brainwashed over years by males who purchased them cigarettes and alcohol. This was a method used to sexually exploit them.

An inquiry into years of abuse in Shropshire revealed that girls who were younger and more vulnerable were often targeted by street men or drivers for food or taxis.

The inquiry published today its findings after a witness from police said that the usual perpetrator planned to get to know as many girls possible, especially those who were at the margin of friendship groups and seemed to crave attention.

Men might offer to give a ride, buy them alcohol, cigarettes, and top up their phones in an effort to persuade the girls that they are in a love relationship.

According to the report, it was “by far the most popular method by which children were brought into child sexual exploitation” in Telford. It used what research has called the “boyfriend” or “loverboy” model.

Once this was done, men encouraged the child to engage in sexual activity.

Telford’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation:  

  • Over 1,000 Telford kids were exploited over a period of decades
  • Signs of child sexual abuse were not obvious and they were ignored
  • The fear of race was the reason that Exploitation wasn’t investigated
  • Some agencies didn’t share information properly. Some bodies dismissed child exploitation and blaming children for it instead of their perpetrators.
  • Teacher and youth workers were “disqualified from reporting child sexual abuse”
  • They were “embolded” and their exploitation continued for years, without any concerted response.
  • The council and police reduced the number of specialist units to ‘virtual 0’ in an effort to cut costs.

Tom Crowther QC, Inquiry Chair, said that brainwashing youth into believing they had meaningful, loving, and reciprocal relationships was a common theme of crimes.

“Although children talked to professionals about their circumstances, professionals did not understand for a while that the’relationships were exploitative.

It was discovered that many victims had difficulty escaping their abuse, and were often unaware they were victims.

Crowther explained that this explains the powerful and manipulative hold perpetrators in child sexual abuse had over the victims of Telford.

Also, the inquiry heard of offences being committed at several known licensed premises within the region – including nightclubs, restaurants, and takeaways. In some cases, children were taken to the premises and ‘pimped’.

Crowther claimed that the shocking piece of evidence he’d read was about “what was described in Wellington as a “rape house”, which, it turned out, had been operating for many years”.

Witness testimony suggested that Asian men were not being investigated because this would be too politically incorrect. Another witness claimed police dropped the case like it was a hot potato if complaints were filed.

Witnesses claimed that police were afraid to challenge or question the ethnicity and race of those involved, fearing they would be labeled racist.

The inquiry found that girls were threatened with death if they attempted to stop abuse.

According to the report, “In some cases, threats were strengthened by references to Lucy Lowe’s murder, which occurred in august 2000 with her sister, mother and unborn child.”

“Abusers” would often remind the girls about Lucy Lowe’s story and tell them they were next. Every boy would talk about it.

Azhar Ali Mehmood, a 26-year old taxi driver, was sentenced to four life terms in 2001 for his murders of Lucy Lowe (16, Sarah Lowe (17), and Eileen Linda Lowe (49).

The 2020 bid of Mehmood, a ‘jealous’ and possessive prisoner, was rejected.

The inquiry, published today, reported that unnecessary suffering and even deaths of children might have been avoided, had West Mercia Police (WMP) ‘done its most basic job’ in acting on reports of such crime.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE), which was a form of child sex, has been thriving in Shropshire for decades. It went unchecked because the authorities failed to properly investigate and protect the children. There were also fears that probes into Asian men could ‘inflame racial tensions.

John Campion (Police and Crime Commissioner West Mercia), stated that he couldn’t say “absolute certain” that Telford child sex abuse would not happen again.

Campion said, “Victims and survivors along with their loved one have been letdown and I am sorry about this.”

“It will not happen again, but I cannot be certain, because it has been taught.

“This report will without doubt make many question their trust in policing.”

Tom Crowther, Inquiry Chairman, issued 47 improvements recommendations. He said the evidence demonstrated the ‘appalling pain of generations of kids caused by the utter cruelty and child sexual abusers’.

He stated that the overwhelming theme of evidence had been the terrible suffering inflicted upon children by the cruelty of child sexual exploiters.

“Victims and survivors told repeatedly the inquiry that adult men used their trust as children to get it. Then, they ruthlessly betrayed that trust by treating them like sexual commodities or objects.

Numerous children were sexually abused and raped. These children were humiliated, degraded, and raped. 

They were traded and shared. They suffered violence, and were often threatened with losing their loved ones. Their lives were changed forever and they lived in constant fear.

According to him, CSE had thrived in Telford for decades unchecked and that agencies including WMP and council were aware of this. He also stated: “Failure to investigate emboldened criminals; failure to protect put children at danger.

“So far as the WMP and council were concerned, there are a few features that appear to have contributed towards this astonishing failure to address CSE. These include a focus on abuse in the family at the expense extra-familial exploit; over-caution about not relying on ‘hard evidence’ to support exploitation claims; and nervousness about investigating concerns about Asian men in particular to inflame racial tensions.

Azhar Ali Mehmood was jailed for life after being convicted of three counts of murder – but was never arrested or charged over sex abuse

Azhar Ali Mehmood was jailed for life after being convicted of three counts of murder – but was never arrested or charged over sex abuse

Mubarek Ali from Telford was jailed after sexually abusing young girls in a child sex abuse ring

Ahdel Ali from Telford was jailed after sexually abusing young girls in a child sex abuse ring

Mubarek and Ahdel Ali from Telford were jailed following the sexual abuse of young girls by a child sex abuse network.

Chairman described a culture that did not investigate what was considered child prostitution and stated that the force had turned ‘blind eyes’ to what was obvious.

According to him, the lack of police intervention had encouraged offenders. He added that it was impossible to not wonder what would have happened if WMP had done its basic task and taken action on reports of crime.

“It’s also impossible, in my opinion, to not conclude that there were real chances that children could have suffered unnecessary pain and death.

He also criticized the “glaring failure” of Telford politicians to not consider child sexual exploitation as an essential service in the time before 2016.

Telford and Wrekin Council released a statement saying it was sorry to all victims of child sexual abuse.

It read, “We apologize wholeheartedly for the pain suffered by victims and survivors and we thank them for their willingness to share with us their stories. This must have been very difficult.”

“Child sexual abuse is an inhumane crime, which disgusts all of us.

Telford sex scandal: A timeline of abuse

1980s Girls in Telford are targeted by groups of mainly Asian men

1996 Police are contacted by a resident to provide information on a major abuser who sold underage girls for sexual sex.

The late 1990s Social workers learn of the problem but do little to help

2000 Lucy Lowe (16) is also killed in the arson attack on her sister and mother by Azhar Ali Mehmood

2002 Becky Watson (13 years old) is a victim of abuse and was killed in an accident on the road that has been described as a “prank”. 

2010-2012 Police probe Operation Chalice identifies potential 200 abusers but only nine are jailed  

2016MP Lucy Allan demands a public inquiry. However, police in Telford and officials from councils have written to Amber Rudd stating that it isn’t necessary

March 2018, As many as 1,000 victims are believed to have been abused

“The independent inquiry acknowledged that we made substantial improvements over the past years.

“We work very hard every day to offer the greatest support possible for victims of this crime. We will keep listening to survivors and victims.

‘Telford & Wrekin Council commissioned the report that dates back to 1989 and we accept the inquiry’s recommendations, many of which we are already carrying out.’

Operation Chalice was a police investigation into child prostitution in Telford that led to seven arrests of men in 2013.

The violent groom gang, which had been active in Shropshire since the 1980s, drugged and beat girls in Telford.

Following the scandalous death of two people, three were killed and two more died.

Lucy Lowe, 16 years old, died along with her mother, sister, and father after Azhar Ali, 26, set fire at their home.

Lucy was the first target of the taxi driver in 1997. His child was born to her when she was only 14.

Mehmood was convicted of murdering Lucy, Eileen’s mother, and Sarah.

He wasn’t charged with any sex crimes or was never arrested.

Becky Watson (13 years old) was struck and killed by a car. It was reported that the incident had been a prank.

It was later revealed that she suffered from two years of sexual abuse by a grooming gang. This began at age 11.

Vicky Round (a friend of Becky) was subject to the abuse by the same gang.

Her parents forced her to become a crack-cocaine addict at age 12. At the tender age of 14, she began to take heroine daily. Her overdose of heroin led to her death at 20.

One victim of Telford’s grooming gang previously shared her story of how she was subject to a ‘whirlwind’ of rape every day, while police, youth workers, medical staff ignored any warning signs.

This woman, who called herself Holly, was subject to four years’ of abuse from the ring that she sold ‘countless’ times for sex.

Holly stated that Holly only managed to get out of the vicious cycle of abuse when she moved 40 miles away from Shropshire, where her family lived.

In 2018, West Mercia Police Supt Tom Harding 'significantly disputed' claims that 1,000-plus children and young women may have been groomed over four decades in the Shropshire town

West Mercia Police Chief Tom Harding claimed in 2018 that more than 1,000 young girls and boys may have been bred in Shropshire over the four-decades.

Holly was interviewed during Operation Chalice. She ended up being unable to face her abusers at court. 

Following a police investigation, 7 members of this gang were incarcerated in 2013.

But detectives said at the time that up to 200 men from across the country had been involved in the ring – with a ‘huge percentage of them’ unidentified.

Telford’s chief police officer stated in 2018 that the scale and number of girls sexually abusing there was’sensationalised.

West Mercia Police Inspector Tom Harding claims that over 1,000 children could have been groomed during four decades of living in Shropshire.

He stated at that time that Telford wasn’t any worse than other locations in England and Wales.

It came after then prime minister Theresa May told the Commons has said it is important that an inquiry into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Telford gets under way as quickly as possible.

Mrs May claimed that the case was a ‘horrific’ one and expressed her delight at an inquiry.

One of the men who had been prosecuted for six years was sentenced to prison in 2019 along with three others for sexually abusing a young girl. She was “passed about like meat”, sold as sex, and was then raped.

At 13 years old, the victim described how she was forced into performing sex acts at a churchyard. She also claimed that she was raped on top of a shop with a filthy mattress and then violently assaulted when she refused to accept their advances.

West Mercia Police has apologised to children who were sexually exploited in Telford over the past 30 years. File image

West Mercia Police has apologized to Telford children who have been sexually exploited over the last 30 years. Click image

It took three years for the inquiry to be completed. However, Mr Crowther stated that he has spoken with victims who had lived in the 1970s.

He stated that the “dreadful, life-altering” crime of Telford has not disappeared and must be kept in the forefront of the minds and attentions of the police and all public agencies.

The report by Mr Crowther highlighted statistics that WMP received 172 referrals for child sexual exploitation during the first six month of 2020. This is a 54% increase over the period 2019.

Richard Cooper, assistant chief constable: “While no corruption was found, our actions were much less than the protection and help you should have received from us. This is unacceptable. We let you down.

“It is crucial that we reflect now critically and thoughtfully on the context of this report and all the recommendations made.”

The council stated that it worked’very hard’ to support victims of the crime and accepted recommendations from the inquiry. Many of these are already being implemented.

John Campion from West Mercia, the police and crime commissioner for West Mercia said he cannot say with certainty that Telford’s child sex abuse will never occur again.