By Olivia Lambert
Warning: Graphic content.
Underage teen girls were given alcohol, cigarettes and drugs in an effort to drag them into an organised sex ring, then violently raped by anyone who wanted them.
An explosive new BBC documentary, Betrayed Girls, reveals how dozens of teens were groomed in broad daylight on the streets by older men and why the crime was buried for decades in the English town of Rochdale, near Manchester.
The program claims authorities ignored reports from a local clinic because the girls who showed up there after being raped were too frightened to make statements to the police.
And the lack of investigation into the sex ring cost at least one girl her life.
The girls targeted by the gang had similar stories. They were young caucasian teens often from difficult backgrounds. They were either in care or had struggles with their parents.
Grooming the girls
The documentary revealed young, attractive teen boys, of Pakistani heritage, would show an interest in young British girls before handing them over to the older gang.
In 2003 a clinic was opened in Rochdale after a rise in teenage pregnancies, but staff members ended up dealing with a number of young girls who claimed they had been raped and drugged by several men in a Pakistani gang.
Sara Rowbotham, who worked at the clinic, told BBC "we started to identify a number of young people who were incredibly vulnerable, who were engaging in this activity, which wasn't necessarily by choice."
She said one vulnerable girl would then bring a friend and they began to piece together what happened.
"We'd get snippets from each girl about their life really and what they were experiencing. They would tell us their boyfriend was a taxi driver or they were enjoying getting really drunk on the weekend or parties where there were lots of older men," Ms Rowbotham said.
What the young women didn't realise was that they were part of a sex ring.
"Every weekend we used to go it was a laugh and a joke and you know you used to get what you wanted out of it, you'd get your beer and your fags but then it changed," a victim told the BBC.
"They wanted more than just giving me free beer, he said 'I bought you beer now let's have sex'.
She said somebody else would then come with a bottle of vodka, expecting sex, followed by another.
"It just escalated from there. I was 14," she said.
Ms Rowbotham told the documentary sometimes there'd be girls lined up outside the clinic, frightened, dishevelled and smelly. One girl had been dumped by the gang and walked almost 10km to the clinic. She had been raped and thrown out of the car.
The clinic told police about what was happening to the girls, but nothing was done and victims were too afraid to make a statement.
Former Greater Manchester Police Detective Constable Maggie Oliver was also working tirelessly behind the scenes to put together a report on the child sex ring to deliver to top cops in a bid to stop the abuse. She became aware of the gang after 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia died from a suspected overdose in 2003. But the girl had written a letter two years before her death that could have saved her, and proved that something sinister beyond the drugs could have lead to her death. The letter was a cry for help and suggested she had been abused.
"I drank, smoked weed, took pills, had blown coke, had heroin - just for what?" She wrote.
"All you do is get a laugh out of it but also it can kill you. I am only 13. I got the rest of my life ahead of me.
"I have slept with people older than me, half of them I don't even know their names. I am a slag and that is nothing to be proud of.
"Now I think why I did it, just to impress the boys and they treated me like s***."
"He held razor blades to my throat"
In the documentary one victim spoke out about her horrific abuse.
"They (the gang) were laughing at me because I was throwing up on the side of the bed," she told the BBC.
"They thought it was highly hilarious. A guy with a razor blade came up to me and said 'I'm gonna cut you, you want me to cut you' and another guy came up and said 'lay down, lay down', I did, thinking nothing of it.
"I was crying because I was being sick and I hate being sick. The guy with the razor blade, he kept coming up to me with it telling me he was going to slit my throat. He was laughing. One of them pulled my trousers down while I was in the middle of being sick. The guy with the razor had it up to my throat. Another guy stood watching."
"I actually thought I was going to get my throat slit."
Sex ring exposed
Despite a number of girls speaking out about abuse to the clinic, everybody turned a blind eye.
Because the gang were Pakistani men, nobody wanted to be labelled racist.
When Ms Oliver handed her report to top cops after investigating the sex ring, she left the police force to care for her husband. When she returned in 2005, it was like her report never existed.
"Groups of children were being targeted like a production line. What was happening to all these children who was dealing with this type of crime? Nobody, it was being buried," she said.
In 2008 a man at a kebab shop reported to police a girl was smashing a glass counter.
Her father told the documentary it was because she had been raped several times. At that time nobody from the gang was arrested because she wasn't deemed a credible witness.
But in December 2010 the Greater Manchester Police arrested nine men from Rochdale.
In court the ring leader, Shabir Ahmed, said the girls were "prostitutes" and had been running a "business empire". The trial ended in May 2012 with nine convictions. Ahmed was sentenced to 19 years in prison for rape, aiding and abetting a rape, sexual assault, trafficking for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.
In March 2015, Greater Manchester Police apologised for failing to investigate the allegations for the sex ring thoroughly between 2008 and 2010.