Raped at 12 by a gang of footballers – but judges say it’s the victims’ fault and frees them. Now one of the victims talks about the sickening events of that night
Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when her and a friend went with six men to a park where 'something terrible' happened (posed by model)
At first, she is almost too nervous to speak, but with her mother’s gentle encouragement, she tentatively begins to find the words.
She hopes, she says, that ‘people won’t judge her’ or think she is ‘messed up’ or that she is a ‘bad girl’.
‘I’m really not,’ she says pitifully.
That a 13-year-old girl should even feel the need to defend her reputation and character in such a way is perhaps the saddest aspect of what you are about to read.
Katie (not her real name) was just 12 when she and a friend, also aged 12, went with six young men to a park in Reading where ‘something terrible’ happened.
Sadly, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what that ‘something terrible’ was.
The six men — all promising local footballers — claimed they thought the girls were at least 16, but they were subsequently convicted of statutory rape because, in the eyes of the law, the girls were unable to give their consent.
Last week, though, the defendants were controversially freed from jail after the Appeal Court ruled that the girls had ‘wanted sex’.
In other words, according to the judgment, Katie and her friend — both just 12, remember — were not really victims at all.
Worse, it gave credence to the view, in the eyes of some, at least, that they were actually to blame for getting the six footballers, aged between 18 and 21, including a former member of Reading FC’s academy, into trouble and ruining their careers.
Already, Katie has received a string of hateful text messages.
‘It’s all your fault,’ said one particularly vile response. Another asked: ‘How can you live with yourself?’
‘It didn’t make me feel very nice,’ says Katie.
The incident in the park, and its aftermath, have been a personal tragedy for Katie, who is now receiving counselling.
But the tragedy spreads wider, for the case also exposes the increasing sexualisation of children and the sickening culture of group sex, which somehow seems to have become acceptable behaviour for a growing number of predatory teenage males.
Two of the six footballers who went to the park with 12-year-old Katie and her friend: Dennis De Sousa (left), aged 19 and Jahvon Edwards (right), aged 19
Anyone who is in any doubt should read the comments of the original trial judge, who said that the six accused standing in the dock in front of him in March this year had treated Katie and her friend ‘as if they were pieces of flesh’, before sentencing them to two years.
The judge’s words seem especially chilling when you meet Katie.
She is in her school uniform, sitting anxiously in the living room of her home. Her exceptionally pretty features are framed by a sweet brown bob. Katie loves photography and is getting a camera for her birthday. She is doing well at school.
One of her favourite TV programmes is EastEnders. In her bedroom, which is as neat as a new pin, there are CDs of High School Musical and 17 Again, starring teen heart-throb Zac Efron. In the corner is a guitar.
‘I’m not very good,’ she says modestly.
‘Yes, you are,’ her mother says proudly.
Her parents split up when she was a baby, but she sees her dad regularly.
She lives with her mum and step-father, who runs his own business, in a detached house in a ‘picture postcard’ resort in the West Country. They moved there from their native Reading in 2009.
Katie, like many girls her age, has
begun to wear make-up. She looks older than 13, but does not seem
precocious in any way. On the contrary, when we meet, she is softly
spoken and endearingly shy.
reason her family allowed her to be interviewed is that they — but most
importantly, Katie herself — want other girls to read her account of
‘what really happened’ and learn from it.
‘There is nothing to be scared of,’ her mother tells her before Katie begins to recount, in little more than a whisper, detail by harrowing detail, the chain of events that ended with her going to a park at night with six young men she had never met.
Jahson Downes (left), aged 20 and Luke Farrugia (right), aged 21. All but two of the six footballers come from broken homes
Those events unfolded one weekend in February last year, when Katie and her mother returned to Reading to visit relatives.
During the visit, Katie met the girl who had once been her best friend. We shall call her Lucy.
Lucy, who as we shall see is certainly old beyond her years, invited Katie to a ‘sleepover’, and in the evening they both attended a family birthday party in a local hall.
Soon, Lucy began exchanging text messages with a boy, or rather a young man, whose number she had obtained three weeks earlier (she told him she had found his number on someone else’s phone and ‘wanted to get to know him’). The young man’s name was Jahvon Edwards.
Edwards, 19, used to play for Henley Town and was now a part-time football coach. Lucy told him she was 16.
She received the first text from Edwards at around 8pm. The ‘conversation’ went like this:
Edwards: ‘Out in my car. You?’
Lucy: ‘Who you with? Should we come too?’
Edwards: ‘Five friends.’
Lucy: ‘We can have three each.’
Edwards: ‘Yes ... Who you having?’
Lucy: ‘Whoever wants me?’
Shortly afterwards, Jahvon Edwards and his ‘five friends’ pulled up outside the hall, where the family gathering was still in full flow, in two Vauxhall Corsa cars.
Lucy then asked Katie to come outside with her.
‘I went with her because I didn’t want to leave her on her own,’ says Katie.
says she wasn’t aware of what Lucy had told Edwards in the text
messages. Katie reluctantly got into one vehicle, Lucy in the other.
Katie says she went along because she thought they were only going for a short drive and would be back in ‘five minutes’.
Lucy’s parents (her father is a driver, her mother works in an office) were unaware the girls had left.
When they stopped at a garage in Reading, the girls got out and Katie says she started to cry.
‘I told Lucy I was scared and that I wanted to go back, but she said there was no way we would be able to on our own because we had gone too far.’
Courtney Amos (left), aged 20 and Ashley Charles (right), aged 20. In the run up to their court appearance, several of them were busy exchanging crude jokes
So Katie returned to the car. She and Lucy were taken to a local park, where they went to the toilet before splitting up. Katie says she saw Lucy disappear behind a tree, from where she then began calling Edwards and his friends over ‘one by one’ for sex.
Shocking? Degrading? Yes. But it was not the first time 12-year-old Lucy had indulged in such activities.
When the case subsequently came before Reading Crown Court earlier this year, it emerged that Lucy had done ‘exactly the same thing’ at least three times before. There was also a fourth occasion while Edwards and his co-defendants were awaiting trial.
Indeed, ‘shocking’ and ‘degrading’ hardly do such revelations justice.
Meanwhile, back in the park, Katie went and sat on a bench and her eyes began to well up again. One of the footballers wouldn’t leave her alone, however, and kept pestering her to perform a sex act on him, which, legally, is still classed as rape.
‘I kept saying “No, no”, but he kept on, so I gave in,’ she says, her voice faltering.
‘I have never done anything like that before, and I would never do it again. That’s the truth.’
Cynics might doubt her words. I do not. Talking to Katie left me utterly convinced that this was a girl — however foolish and naive she might have been — who was telling me the raw, simple truth.
Afterwards, she and Lucy were driven back to town and dropped off near to where Lucy lived. By now, Lucy’s parents had realised the girls were missing and had called the police. They were found wandering along a lane in the vicinity of her home at 2am.
Katie was reunited with her mother at the police station and, for the third time that night, broke down in tears.
‘I cuddled her and told her everything was going to be all right,’ her mother says.
The following day, Katie and Lucy were interviewed by detectives.
Jahvon Edwards, who lives with his mother in Reading, was subsequently arrested and charged with rape, along with Dennis De Sousa, 19, Jahson Downes, 20, Ashley Charles, 20, Courtney Amos, 20, and Luke Farrugia, 21.
All but two of them are from broken homes.
In the run-up to their crown court appearance, several of them were busy exchanging crude jokes about sex and prostitutes on Twitter.
Take de Sousa, whose own father spent much of the Eighties and Nineties in and out of prison for crimes including affray and conspiracy to supply drugs.
‘Love me some **** (the name given to a particular sex act) and I LOVE a woman that likes to do it,’ he tweeted, followed by: ‘Like what you see, but don’t touch it hoe (street slang for prostitute).’
Amos, brought up by his mother and who, until his rape conviction, was hoping to pursue a career as a children’s football coach.
He re-tweeted this offering from a friend: ‘I use to be a shy boy when I was young, until I lost my virginity and started **** ******** (slang for pleasuring a woman) females like no tomorrow.’
Or Charles, who has a conviction for assault, and used the ‘hashtag’ (a keyword used to categorise a Tweet) TheJoyOfTeenSex — a reference to the Channel 4 series of the same name. He later describes what he might like to do to a friend’s mother.
These, then, are some of the individuals who had sex with two 12-year-old girls in a park on the weekend of February 20, 2010.
Earlier this week, three of the six, who became friends while studying sports science at the same Reading college, agreed to meet the Mail at a bar in the town centre.
It was apparent that they see themselves, not the girls, as the real victims of what happened that night. Their conviction remains but their sentences have now been suspended, and they will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years.
‘Our lives have been ruined, and none of us are now able to go on and follow the careers that we would have chosen for ourselves,’ said de Sousa, who now lives in a council flat with his father.
‘I feel we were tricked into going to the park with them’ (a reference to the fact that Lucy claimed she was 16 on her Facebook page).
De Sousa, accompanied by Edwards and Downes, says he felt disgusted when he discovered the truth.
‘I’ve got a little sister that age’, he said.
But isn’t the crux of the matter that he and his five friends were quite prepared to take two young girls, regardless of how old they thought they may or may not have been, to a park with the specific intention of having sex with them?
Repeat: Six boys. Two girls.
The judge who jailed them certainly thought so.
‘It is clear to me,’ he told them, ‘that all of you were utterly reckless in what you did that night. Those girls were utterly unknown to you.
‘You saw those girls as utterly willing sexual partners, which they were, and behaved towards them as if they were simply pieces of flesh, not people.’
The Appeal Court took a more lenient view. You can be the judge of who was right.