Two brothers were today jailed for a shocking campaign of grooming and child sexual exploitation that targeted eight teenage girls over more than five years.
Ilavarasan and Vinothan Rajenthiram used a Wirral newsagents as a front to lure in schoolgirls by offering them sweets, crisps and cigarettes.
They then used trips in flashy cars and hosted alcohol-fuelled parties to coax them into having sex.
The pair, known as Ara and Vino by their victims, spent nearly six years flirting, flattering and using their access to alcohol, cigarettes and sports cars to manipulate girls – some as young as 14 – in Birkenhead.
During a five month trial, which the ECHO was able to attend but banned from reporting on due to legal restrictions, prosecutors exposed their web of exploitation.
The evidence led jurors to reject the brothers’ pleas of innocence and find them guilty of 27 sex offences against eight victims, including one who was targeted by both brothers.
MERSEYSIDE POLICE STATEMENT ON RAJENTHIRAM BROTHERS CASE
Their abuse was centred on their jobs at the Best Price newsagents, on the corner of Cole Street and Grange Road West, run by their family.
Some victims were also met while they had earlier roles at another Birkenhead shop, not owned by their family.
Best Price was closed down in February 2016 after Merseyside Police launched an investigation into the brothers.
Offences typically took place in a flat near that shop and others in Liscard, Garston and Walton.
Summing up the case against the defendants in March, Janet Reaney, prosecuting, told jurors: “The convenience stores owned by the Rajenthiram family or attended by Ara and Vinothan were the means by which Ara and Vinothan met and established contact with many of the young girls and women.
“The girls who came to these shops were flirted with and phone numbers were exchanged. Some were given crisps, sweets and drink… some got unwanted sexual attention.
“The sparsely furnished flats they had access to were used to drink with, dance with and engage in sexual activity with the girls.”
The brothers’ sickening exploits were uncovered after one of the victims was reported to the police as missing in January 2016.
Along with the police her worried mum, and the mother of another girl who had failed to return home one night, tracked their daughters back to the Rajenthiram brothers.
That sparked a probe that would lead to 18 teenagers and young women giving evidence in court because they had either been assaulted or targeted by the pair, or had been aware of the activities that spanned several friendship groups.
Ara, of Grove Road in Wallasey, was convicted of 15 counts of sexual activity with a child and three counts of sexual assault, dating back to the summer of 2010.
Vino, of Billinge Road, Wigan, was found guilty of one count of rape, four counts of sexual activity with a child and four counts of sexual assault – the first offence taking place in the summer of 2011.
In total eight girls were subjected to sex offences.
A further girl was the victim of one of three offences of perverting the course of justice committed by the defendants.
Both brothers denied all of the offences – putting their victims through an intense trial – attempting to cover their twisted crimes with a combination of lies.
They included claims they thought their victims were aged 16 or above, or that some of the allegations had been made up in a conspiracy dreamt up by jealous teenagers.
While many of the offences took place with the consent of those girls, their age meant they were illegal.
Several of the victims told police they had revealed their true age to the men at the time.
Andrew Copeland, defending Ara, claimed his client’s actions had been opportunistic rather than predatory.
He said: “They [the victims] predominantly attended the shop. That is where the initial contact occurred. The activity on many occasions was complicit.”
He said Ara had caused no “significant” psychological or physical harm to his victims and that “he is not beyond the hope of rehabilitation”.
Philip Kazantzis, defending Vinothan, also argued his defendant’s actions had been opportunistic, including in relation to the perverting the course of justice conviction.
Sentencing the pair, Judge Norman Wright slammed the brothers for their “careful and systematic” grooming of the girls.
He said: “Against this background of grooming and disinhibiting by alcohol, some of your victims went along with your sexual wishes. Some believed they were in genuine relationships. But really they were just your sexual playthings.”
Ara, 26, was sentenced to 22 and a half years, with 18 and a half in custody and four years to be spent on extended licence.
Vino, 27, was sentenced to 18 years – 14 in custody and four on extended licence.
More information about child sexual exploitation, including details of where you can find help and advice if you think your child/children may be a victim, is available here at Listen to My Story. The website also contains information for young people, who may be victims, or are worried about their friends.