Operation Erle brings sexual predators to justice

Det Supt Gary Ridgway
Det Supt Gary Ridgway
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Mohammed Khubaib is the tenth person to be convicted as part of Cambridgeshire Police’s operation to prevent the sexual exploitation of children in Peterborough.

Operation Erle has been running in the city for a number of years, and Khubaib’s case was the fifth to come to court. Police have worked closely with Peterborough City Council throughout the operation.

We have worked closely with colleagues at Peterborough Children’s Services to win the trust of these young girls so they felt safe enough to tell us what they had been through.

Det Supt Gary Ridgway

Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgway said: “We are extremely pleased that after two years of investigating this particular case, all the hard work put in by the police officers, social workers and, most importantly of all, the courage of all the young girls, has paid off.

“We have worked closely with colleagues at Peterborough Children’s Services to win the trust of these young girls so they felt safe enough to tell us what they had been through.

“Khubaib befriended the girls and plied them with alcohol with the sole intent of sexually exploiting them.

“They have each shown great bravery in giving evidence against their abuser at court.

“In some cases it may take many years for them to rebuild their lives, but hopefully the knowledge that this man has been brought to justice will be an important step forward for them.

“Our priority has always been, and remains, to safeguard young people. We will continue to work with the city council and other partner agencies to keep young people safe from harm.”

Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, corporate director of People and Communities at Peterborough City Council, said: “We are pleased with this verdict today as it represents justice for the girls and young women who suffered at the hands of this vicious criminal.

“I would like to start by paying tribute to those girls and young women. Without their courage to take the witness stand and relive some absolutely horrendous experiences at the hands of this criminal we could not have got the result we did today.

“It is because of their courage that this vicious criminal was convicted and this means that other women and girls are safer in our city.

“Today is an important day for these young women. It is important because they have been believed. And because of this they can now get on with their lives and properly begin their recovery. That recovery may take a long time but we will help and support them in every way we can.

“I would also like to pay tribute to our social workers and the police. We all wish these girls could have been saved sooner, who would not? But it was not until our social workers and the police won the girls trust so that they felt they could tell us what was really happening to them that the police could make arrests and we were able to begin supporting them properly.

“What was different in Peterborough is that having followed other places like Rotherham and Oxford we knew we must have child sexual exploitation in our city. So along with the police we went out looking for it, and when we did we found it; and where we found it we took decisive action which has led to today’s conviction and the others we have secured over the last 18 months.”

Muhammed Waqas (24) of Vere Road, Peterborough was the first man to be sentenced as part of Operation Erle. Waqas, a Pakistani man, was jailed for three years and nine months in August 2013 after pleading guilty to sexual activity with a girl aged between 13 and 15.

In January last year four men and a boy were all convicted of sex offences following a trial at the Old Bailey.

Slovakian Zdeno Mirga, said to be the ringleader of the gang, was found guilty of inciting child prostitution, eight counts of rape and four counts of sexual activity with a child. Mirga, of College Park, Peterborough, was jailed for 16 and a half years.

Hassan Abdulla (34) of Summerfield, Peterborough was convicted of four counts of rape, and three counts of sexual activity with a child. The Iraqi national was jailed for 20 years.

Slovakian Renato Balog (19), of Greenham, Bretton, was jailed for 12 years after being found guilty of five counts of rape and four counts of sexual assault.

Fellow Slovak Jan Kandrac was jailed for five and a half years. Kandrac (18) of Shakespeare Avenue, Peterborough was convicted of rape and two counts of sexual touching.

A 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named, was given a six month supervised rehabilitation order after being convicted of sexual activity with a child.

In May 2014 Yasir Ali and Daaim Ashraf, both from Pakistan, were convicted of sexual offences at Cambridge Crown Court.

Ali (29) of Grange Road, Peterborough, was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty four counts of rape, seven counts of trafficking for sexual exploitation, two counts of making indecent images of children, one count of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child and one count of intimidation of a witness/juror.

Ashraf (20) of Almoners Lane, Peterborough was jailed for 12 years after being found guilty of five counts of trafficking for sexual exploitation, one count of sexual assault, one count of sexual activity with a child, one count of sexual activity in the presence of a child, and one count of intimidation of a witness/juror.

And in September Pakistani national Mohammed Abbas (30) of Gladstone Street was jailed for 12 years following a retrial at Peterborough Crown Court.

He was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault on a girl aged under 12 and two counts of sexual activity with a child.