Investigation Reveals What Could Be Britain's 'Worst Ever' Child Abuse Scandal
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Up to 1,000 girls as young as 11 have been raped, drugged, and beaten over the course of 40 years in what could possibly be Britain's 'worst ever' child abuse scandal, an investigation by The Sunday Mirror has revealed.
A grooming gang in the Shropshire town of Telford is reported to have been active since the 1980s and - despite repeated warnings to social workers - many of them have gone unpunished. There may still be similar cases of abuse going on to this day in the area.
There have also been several high-profile murder cases regarding girls who are thought to have been involved in the child abuse.
The Conservative MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, has previously called for an investigation into the matters.
In September 2016, she said: "There must now be an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford so that our community can have absolute confidence in the authorities."
In 1999, Lucy Lowe, 16, was killed in a house fire alongside her mother and sister. Azhar Ali Mehmood was jailed for the murders of all three, but had also been abusing Lucy from a young age, according to the Sunday Mirror's investigation. She gave birth to his child aged just 14 but he was never tried on sexual abuse charges.
One of the victims, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was drugged and raped and that she had considered suicide as the only way out of her predicament.
She said: "I was scared my family would die like Lucy's - I thought they'd only be safe if I killed myself."
Some years later another girl died in mysterious circumstances after a car crash. Becky Watson was 13 years old and since her death it has been revealed through passages in her diary that she claimed she was a victim of the grooming gang.
Becky's mum, Torron, said: "Girls like Becky were treated like criminals. I was crying out for help but it felt like I had nowhere to turn. If Becky's abuse had been properly investigated by the authorities more girls could have been saved from going through this hell."
The statistics were revealed by The Sunday Mirror with the help of Professor Liz Kelly, of the Child and Women's Studies Unit of London Met University.
She used figures from the paper's investigations to calculate the stats.
Professor Kelly said: "We are acting as if we didn't know about child sex abuse rings. We have an unfortunate capacity to choose to forget."
The Sunday Mirror also spoke to Sheila Taylor of the NWG Network who worked on an inquiry into the similar scandal in Rotherham. She thinks the figure could be even higher than quoted.
She said: "There is probably a whole cohort of young people that are not identified.
"We are good at identifying white girls but are less able to identify young men, young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, from travelling communities, or with learning or other disabilities."
The full extent of the abuse and mismanagement from the authorities is not yet known, but it is thought that countless warning signs have been allowed to pass by unnoticed and unreported.
A statement from Telford Council said: "Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a vile, evil crime. It's an issue right across the UK and has been for a long time.
"Telford will be covered by the national CSE review. We welcome this. All agencies continue to work very closely together and this remains our top priority.
"Our approach to CSE [child sexual exploitation] is now very different from 10-20 years ago. We have learned lots of lessons and are constantly on the lookout for indicators of CSE so that we can pass information on to police and bring these evil criminals to justice. Indeed, further cases are now coming to court."