But for now the trio of convicted abusers remain in Rochdale.
Adil Khan, Qari Abdul Rauf and Abdul Aziz – all taxi drivers who preyed on vulnerable school-age girls – lost their appeal against deportation two years but remain in the UK.
The process of removing them began in 2015.
The M.E.N. has learned that enforcement officials have focused on one of the men in particular, Adil Khan, after we reported he had bumped into one of his victims in Asda in the town.
But it is believed all three remain in Rochdale, prompting the town’s MP Tony Lloyd to hold a meeting with Home Secretary Priti Patel to urge her to act.
The Home Office began the process of removing the men’s British citizenship in July 2015 to pave the way for their deportation but they challenged the move, saying it breached their human rights and the rights of their children.
They lost their case at the Court of Appeal in August 2018 but it is believed they remain in Rochdale.
The M.E.N. is aware of correspondence from the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Agency last month which revealed officials were collating information concerning the deportation of one of the trio, Adil Khan.
It is not clear why the correspondence failed to mention the other two men.
However, a few weeks before the correspondence the M.E.N. reported how one terrified victim of the grooming gang revealed how her heart ‘stopped beating’ when she bumped into her freed abuser Adil Khan while shopping in Asda.
She ran from the supermarket in tears and reported Adil Khan to the authorities as he was with another young child.
Now a young woman, she saw Khan, 50, with the child in an aisle of Asda superstore in Rochdale town centre.
She told a friend: “Oh my God, he’s been in Asda. I’ve never been so scared in all my life. I feel like my heart just stopped beating.”
She was outraged that Khan and two other members of the gang remain in Rochdale despite losing their appeal against deportation back to their native Pakistan two years ago.
Former taxi driver Khan, nick-named Billy, betrayed his wife when he started a relationship with the school-age girl just a few weeks after his wife had delivered their first child.
He got his victim, who thought he was her boyfriend, pregnant when she had just turned 13 and also trafficked a second girl, 15, to other abusers, using violence when she complained.
Khan, of Oswald Street in Rochdale, was jailed for eight years in 2012 but was released in 2016. A jury convicted him of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
He was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life.
Although he was released from prison in 2016, he remained out on licence but that sentence has now elapsed.
Taxi driver Abdul Aziz, of Armstrong Hurst Close, Rochdale, was cleared of two counts of rape but was convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
He ferried the girls as far as Leeds and Bradford and was paid by the stream of men who used the girls for sex, getting £40 for each introduction.
Known as Master Aziz or Tariq, the married father-of-three, now 49, kept a stash of condoms in his taxi.
He struck up a business relationship with the young girl that the crown said was part of the plot – she would find him new girls and he would take them to the sex parties.
He was jailed for nine years after he was convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Taxi driver and Muslim preacher Abdul Rauf, now 51, of Darley Road, Rochdale, was convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Like some of his co-defendants, he opted to ‘affirm’ that he would tell the truth – rather than swear on the Koran in court.
The father-of five worked as a qari, reading the Koran for the congregation at Rochdale’s Bilal mosque.
He claimed to be deeply religious and insisted in court that he only left the post to earn a better wage for his growing family.
In fact, he was sacked by the mosque because of poor time-keeping.
In court, he was constantly praying under his breath in the dock, to the annoyance of his co-defendants, one of whom punched him.
He wept when he admitted having sex with a girl in his VW Sharan taxi. It had been a ‘big mistake’, he said, claiming the girl looked ‘maybe 30’. Another girl, the prosecution’s main witness, told the jury she had sex with Rauf 20 or 30 times.
Under cross-examination he appeared to feign a collapse.
He was jailed for six years after being convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Khan, Qari Abdul Rauf and Abdul Aziz are believed to be still residing in Rochdale despite losing their appeal against the Home Office ruling in 2018.
The young woman who bumped into Khan – who cannot be named as a victim of a sex crime but who was Ruby in the BBC drama about the scandal Three Girls – confided in former GMP detective Maggie Oliver who worked on the police investigation but later resigned in disgust at how victims were treated.
Oliver turned whistleblower and campaigner.
She told the M.E.N: “It’s outrageous. It’s two years since they lost their case. This for me isn’t justice and I know the victims themselves don’t see it as justice and nor do the public. They look at it and say ‘what’s going on?’ I feel the same way. It’s such an overwhelmingly draining process to get answers to these questions and get things moving. Most people get disillusioned. It’s a joke. They are twirling the system. This is another example of how the criminal justice system is failing victims.”
The trio were among nine men mostly Pakistani heritage men convicted and jailed in 2012 over a catalogue of serious sex offences against five vulnerable victims in Rochdale and Heywood where young white girls were plied with drink, abused and then shared with other abusers at parties held across the north of England.
Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd has spoken to the Home Secretary Priti Patel to urge her to ensure the three men can no longer bump into their victims and to finally deport them.
In a follow-up letter to her, Mr Lloyd wrote: “I am writing following the recent telephone meeting we had concerning the Rochdale Grooming Gang.
Get the latest updates from across Greater Manchester direct to your inbox with the free MEN newsletter
You can sign up very simply by following the instructions here
“I very much welcome your own commitment to making sure that the deportation process is one that the public can have confidence in and that the Rochdale Groomers and others in a similar position can expect the full weight of the law, including, where appropriate, deportation.
“I also raised along with (deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester) Bev Hughes, the fact that the groomers are seemingly free to roam the streets of Rochdale with the capacity to chance upon their victims. I know you would agree that this would be intolerable but I must ask what practical steps can be taken to prevent this and to restrict the freedom of the Groomers to behave in this way.”
The Home Office refuses to disclose why the three men have not yet been deported.
A spokesperson said: “Foreign national offenders should be in no doubt of our determination to remove them, and since 2010 we have removed more than 53,000 criminals.
“We are determined to end the abhorrent crime of child sexual exploitation, and will later this year set out a first of its kind national strategy to respond to all forms of child sexual abuse.”
Priti Patel has promised to publish a report into the ‘characteristics’ of sex grooming gangs later this year.
Announcing this in May, she said: “Victims of these sickening child sex abuse groups have told me how they were let down by the state in the name of political correctness.
“What happened to these children remains one of the biggest stains on our country’s conscience. It is shameful.
“I am determined to deliver justice for victims and ensure something like this can never happen again.”