Older men used ‘loverboy’ method to abuse children in Telford, says report

Children in Telford were brainwashed for years by men who bought them alcohol and cigarettes in what was described as a “loverboy” method to sexually exploit them, a report found.

Girls who were much younger and vulnerable were targeted by men they would meet on the street or who might be a taxi or food delivery driver and persuaded to become their “girlfriend”, an inquiry into decades of abuse in the Shropshire town said.

A police witness told the inquiry, which published its findings on Tuesday, that the typical perpetrator’s plan was to meet as many girls as they could, particularly those on the edge of friendship groups or who seemed to be craving attention.

The men might start by giving the child a lift, buying them fast food, alcohol and cigarettes and topping up their mobile phones – all in a bid to convince the girl they were in a loving relationship.

It was a “by far the most common method by which children were introduced to child sexual exploitation” in Telford, in what studies have called “the ‘boyfriend’ or ‘loverboy’ model”, the report said.

Having done so, the men would encourage the child to become involved in sexual activity and establish control.

Inquiry chair Tom Crowther QC said: “The nature of the crimes often involved brainwashing young people into believing they were in meaningful, loving and reciprocal relationships, even if such apparent reciprocity involved them engaging in things that deep down they knew they did not want to do.

“Although some children spoke to professionals about their situations, for some time those professionals failed to understand that these ‘relationships’ were exploitative.”

The inquiry discovered that victims found it difficult to escape their abuse and in many cases did not even recognise themselves as being victims, with the situation having become “a way of life to which they had become accustomed”.

Mr Crowther said: “This explains exactly the manipulative and powerful hold the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation exerted over their victims in Telford.”

The inquiry also heard that offences took place in various known licensed premises in the area – in nightclubs, restaurants and takeaway establishments, with children being “pimped” out and taken into rooms within the premises to be exploited.

Mr Crowther said one of the most shocking pieces of evidence he had read related to “what was described as a ‘rape house’ in Wellington, which it became clear had been operating for years”.

Girls were subjected “in several cases” to death threats against themselves or their families if they tried to put a stop to abuse, the inquiry heard.

The report said: “In some cases, threats were reinforced by reference to the murder of Lucy Lowe, who died alongside her mother, sister and unborn child in August 2000.”

“Abusers would remind girls of what had happened to Lucy Lowe and would tell them that they would be next if they ever said anything. Every boy would mention it.”

In 2001, the then 26-year-old taxi driver Azhar Ali Mehmood (pictured) was handed four life sentences when he was jailed for the murders of Lucy Lowe, 16, Sarah Lowe, 17, and 49-year-old Eileen Linda Lowe in 2001.

In 2020, the “jealous and possessive” Mehmood had a bid to be freed from jail rejected.

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