Raped, beaten, not believed’: Truth behind dramatic Three Girls stand-off between the police and a sexual health worker that finally put child grooming victims on path to justice
- Amber, Ruby and Holly faced police again in Three Girls as their cases were reopened in the second episode of the three-part drama
- Viewers were left feeling sick as they relived their abuse in more interviews
- There was shock as police revealed they had kept an abortion as evidence
- But viewers heaped praise on Lesley Sharp and Maxine Peake as they played the police officer and sexual health worker determined to bring justice
TV viewers were gripped on Wednesday night by a dramatic confrontation in the BBC drama Three Girls.
Depicting the real-life battle for justice for victims of Rochdale’s child grooming scandal, a tense scene unfolded as police finally listened and acknowledged young women had been subjected to horrific abuse by a gang of Muslim men.
The gripping scene involved actresses Maxine Peake who plays sexual health worker Sara Rowbotham and Lesley Sharp who portrays DC Maggie Oliver.
At the heart of the stand-off between the two women lies the real story of the years they spent battling for the horrific abuse taking place in Rochdale, Manchester, to be taken seriously.
The anger at the years spent suppressing evidence was expressed as Peake’s character – complaining that girls had been ‘raped, beaten, not believed, raped, beaten, not believed’ – cut police down to size when they finally agreed to re-examine the allegations.
It mirrors the genuine frustration felt by Sara Rowbotham, who had been referring cases to police in Manchester since 2004, without getting anywhere.
Andrew Chan’s brother delivers emotional speech at memorial
Maxine Peake as Sara Rowbotham, delivering a powerful speech to DC Oliver, played by Lesley Sharp, refusing to hand over documents police didn’t want to see previously
And DC Maggie Oliver had worked on cases before Operation Span, where she had convinced young women to trust her only to be told no charges were going to be brought.
According to the Telegraph, the real Ms Rowbotham, now a councillor, made more than 100 referrals to police after starting to see a pattern in her line of sexual health work.
These began in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2012 that convictions were made against nine of the men involved in the abuse.
She suffered personally with poor health after the true nature of the sex ring was exposed and ended up being made redundant from her job in 2014.
Peake met with Rowbotham on several occasions before taking on her role.
The sexual health worker: ‘The police didn’t want to know’
In a piece for the Guardian, she wrote about seeing the girls arrive at the clinic having walked miles from remote countryside where they had been taken to be abused.
Sara wrote: ‘My calls to police were ignored and social workers told me the girls were making lifestyle choices.
Left, former DC Maggie Oliver, who says abuse is still going on in Rochdale, with ‘hundreds’ of paedophiles walking the streets, and right, the sexual health worker Sara Rowbotham, who exposed the scandal
Sara and DC Oliver as portrayed by Maxine Peake and Lesley Sharp, who finally met on the second episode of Three Girls in a dramatic confrontation
‘We’d make them a cup of tea, take them to a sexual health clinic to test for and treat sexually transmitted infections and call the police. But, again, the police didn’t want to know.
‘How it took the police so long to act to protect children from evil criminals, why social services showed wilful blindness in ignoring what was happening and how so many agencies had collectively failed to act much earlier.’
The police officer: ‘Paedophiles are still walking the streets’
As an officer, Maggie Oliver used her real-life experience to gain the trust of the vulnerable girls she tried to help during police investigations in 2004, and again a number of years later, before Operation Span.
But she said her work was wasted when the operations were non-existent after she came back from caring for and then mourning her late husband.
She said: ‘I worked on an almost identical operation in 2004, Operation Augusta, which had identified dozens of young victims and dozens of suspects.
‘It was a virtual carbon copy of Rochdale, men of largely Pakistani heritage were abusing vulnerable white girls, in Hulme, and around the Curry Mile, in Rusholme. I was on that job for a year and a half. It was a huge investigation.
‘We also had social workers telling us they’d been trying to get the police to take this problem seriously for years.
‘But not one offender was arrested or charged. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if none of it had ever happened.
‘Nobody was ever able to explain to me why the case had been dropped. I wanted to know because I’ve got four kids of my own.’
The show also featured DC Oliver’s attempts to get the Bowens back on side – above, Amber, Ruby and mother Lorna, who had lost trust in the police
She has told the Mirror the abuse is far from over.
Mrs Oliver said: ‘Just three months ago, one of the young women I still speak to was stood at a cash till to find one of the offenders that she had told police about stood behind her in the queue.
‘In my opinion a child abuser is always a child abuser. That man is still out there walking the streets of Rochdale. There were nine men convicted. But the girls told me of many more men.’
Police believed that the girls were acting as prostitutes, and as in Three Girls, one of the teenagers, portrayed in the show as the character Amber really was questioned about being a madam.
Mrs Oliver believes there was an inability by Greater Manchester Police to correctly log every allegation of rape, meaning some of those the girls accused walk the streets today.
GMP did not comment on the former officer’s statement.
The dramatic standoff: ‘Raped, beaten, not believed, raped, beaten, not believed. What do you think that does to a kid?’
In the dramatic scene for the BBC show, Peake, as sexual health worker Sara Rowbotham, refused to let the police swoop in and act as the saviours of the day when officers reopened the cases they had closed without prosecution.
Peake delivered a dramatic speech to Sharp’s DC Oliver, telling her she couldn’t have paid them to look at what she was asking for now years ago, while they were ‘raped, beaten, not believed’.
Viewers praised Lesley Sharp for her role as DC Maggie Oliver – the real police officer ended up leaving the force over the way the victims were treated
The real Sara Rowbotham went on to become a councillor after she played her part in exposing the huge exploitation scandal across Rochdale
When police make their application, DC Oliver admits she can understand why Sara was so angry.
In the emotional scene, DC Oliver is brought into the clinic where she introduces herself to Sara.
She says: ‘I’m DC Maggie Oliver, I’m a detective with Greater Manchester Police. GMP is running an operation, Operation Span, to put right what went wrong in relation to the grooming of young girls, and I understand you made several referrals to the police, in relation to two girls in particular, Amber and Ruby Bowen.
MAXINE PEAKE: THE CORBYNISTA WHO RAILS AGAINST ‘SUPER RICH’
Maxine Peake, who plays Sara Rowbotham in the three-part drama Three Girls, has a company registered with a tax planning accountant.
She is the sole director of Flat Cap Limited which boasts assets of £145,000, according to documents lodged at Companies House.
The business is registered with the accountants Creasey Alexander & Co, an accountancy which boasts of its tax planning expertise on its website.
There is no suggestion Ms Peake has done anything wrong, but some will think it is hypocritical given her strident views on taxation.
The revelation comes after the actress – who used to be a member of the Communist Party – fronted an election broadcast for Jeremy Corbyn’s party.
In it she accused the Conservative Party of lonely looking after the ‘privileged few’ and urged voters to back Labour.
‘I’m here in the hope that you might have some relevant intelligence in relation to them.’
As she is stared down by a furious Sara, she tells her she has the car with her in case there are files she can take straight away.
Sara responds: ‘F*** off.
‘No, really, I mean it. F*** off.
‘I’ve been in here, sat in here, for years, and what you’re demanding off me now I couldn’t pay you lot to look at for years.
‘You swan in here off the street with your Prada handbag asking me to hand it over like you’re asking to check me gas meter?’
DC Oliver attempts to interject and says ‘I understand’, but Sara is quick to continue.
She adds: ‘You really really don’t. What those girls have been telling me for years, I have been powerless to do anything about because you lot didn’t want to know.’
DC Oliver tells her it’s ‘the biggest operation the GMP is running’.
Sara says: ‘And what do you think has been happening to those girls in the meantime? Raped, beaten, not believed, raped, beaten, not believed. What do you think that does to a kid?
‘Do you think they’re sitting around waiting to do their civic duty because you lot have got your act together? If you want documents off me make an application, fill out a form, do whatever it is you coppers have to do when you’re after evidence.
‘But don’t rock up here after all these years acting like you’re the saviour of the family.’
Thankfully for the girls who were exploited by the gang, Sara doesn’t let sudden police interest keep her away for too long, and spends time convincing Holly, who now has a baby, to talk to officers once again.
DC Oliver has the door of Amber and Ruby’s home slammed in her face when she tries to speak with the family again, but eventually convinces their mother Lorna that they really can put the men behind bars this time.
‘BAFTA-WORTHY’: HOW VIEWERS REACTED TO THE POWERFUL THREE GIRLS SCENES
Viewers praised the women for their powerful performances, that highlighted how long the abuse went on without action as Sara Rowbotham continued to make referrals to police and social services, from as early as 2004.
Lyndsey Gibbons tweeted: ‘Lesley Sharp. Maxine Peake. Throw in Sarah Lancashire and you have the Holy Trinity of Northern British actresses.’
Luce posted: ‘Lesley Sharp and Maxine Peake absolutely killing it.’
Other viewers dubbed their emotional performances ‘superb’.
Viewers heaped praise on the powerful performances delivered by Maxine Peake and Lesley Sharp in the second part
In the same episode, Ruby learned she was pregnant, and police kept the terminated foetus after her abortion in a freezer later on in a scene that shocked viewers.
The DNA evidence was taken, but officers didn’t do anything with it, DC Oliver tells Mrs Bowen, played by Lisa Riley, as she convinces her the girls need to speak.
Lorna Bowen, played by Lisa Riley, comforts daughter Ruby after she tells her they kept her termination to use as evidence later
Attention was also drawn to the fact the show is based on a real story, and there is huge concern on the level of grooming that still goes on in the UK
THE SEXUAL HEALTH WORKER WHO FOUGHT TIRELESSLY TO EXPOSE THE HORRIFIC ABUSE
Sara Rowbotham was concerned about the drama, as she feared it wouldn’t do justice to what happened in Rochdale
Sara Rowbotham, the woman who helped expose the huge sexual crime network in Rochdale, was turned down as the seat’s next candidate for MP.
Now a councillor, the worker applied for the vacancy in Rochdale left by Simon Danczuk for the forthcoming election.
But the local party selected Greater Manchester’s former police and crime commissioner – and interim mayor – Tony Lloyd.
Cllr Rowbotham, the whistleblower who lifted the lid on the horrific abuse of youngsters in the town, insisted she was ‘100 per cent’ behind Mr Lloyd following his selection.
She added: ‘Tony is the best candidate for Rochdale and will make an excellent MP.
‘I applied for the vacancy and was pleased my application to be interviewed by the party was successful.
‘It was a fair and open selection process and the best candidate won. Tony is far more experienced and has the support of the people of Rochdale.’
Former MP Mr Danczuk, who is standing for the seat as an independent, criticised the selection and said he would have stood aside had Cllr Rowbotham been selected.
Sexual health worker Sara wrote in the Guardian that she was initially concerned about the BBC’s interest in dramatising the scandal, and feared they could not do it justice.
She wrote: ‘They have managed to powerfully portray a world of desperately vulnerable teenagers who are hidden from view and don’t have a voice.
‘I cried when I first saw Three Girls. The girls’ brave struggle to bring these criminals to justice is told with sensitivity and insight.
‘It’s ultimately a story about childhood that ought to spark a national debate about the protections every child should be entitled to.’
She was revealed to be appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates, as she tries to move on from a ‘difficult, dark time’.
The Rochdale abuse scandal: What happened?
Shabir Ahmed, the ringleader of the Rochdale child sex grooming gang
The Rochdale scandal was finally exposed in 2012, when people learned that for years, authorities had been suppressing knowledge of abuse rings of primarily Pakistani men preying on primarily white teenage girls.
Young women were being raped by multiple men on a nightly basis, after being plied with gifts and alcohol.
Nine men were sentenced in 2012, and another nine in 2016. In 2012, the men were given sentences ranging from four to 19 years.
A jury at Liverpool Crown Court heard that girls would be given alcohol before being passed around for sex at two takeaways, the Balti House and Tasty Bites, in the Heywood area.
The police were accused by then MP Simon Danczuk of ignoring the cases because they were brought by working class girls.
Reports have estimated the number of girls abused over the course of the cover-up at 1,400, but some have said it could be as many as 2,000.
Top row left to right: Abdul Rauf, Hamid Safi, Mohammed Sajid and Abdul Aziz; Bottom row left to right: Abdul Qayyum, Adil Khan, Mohammed Amin and Kabeer Hassan
The men sentenced in 2012 included Mohammed Amin who was jailed for five years for sexual assaults and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Abdul Qayyum, known as ‘Tiger’ to his victims, was jailed for five years for conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Adil Khan was convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. He was jailed for eight years.
Mohammed Sajid, who abused girls in a flat in the city, was jailed for 12 years after he was convicted of conspiracy, sexual activity with a child, rape and trafficking.
Abdul Rauf was jailed for six years after being convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. The court heard he had sex with one girl in his taxi 20 to 30 times.
Abdul Aziz was convicted of trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child and jailed for nine years.
The youngest of the group, Kabeer Hassan, was 25 when the abuse happened. He was jailed for nine years for rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Hamid Safi was jailed for four years for trafficking and conspiracy but was cleared of rape charges.
The ringleader Shabir Ahmed, was jailed for 22 years, for rape, sexual assault, trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Zoe and Amber, in episode one of Three Girls. The show divided viewers and some turned off, finding it too hard to watch
Lorna Bowen, portrayed by Lisa Riley, in episode two, telling the police she won’t be speaking with them again, after their concerns were ignored the first time
Allegations had been brought to police on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2010, and after reviews following the court case, Greater Manchester Police apologised in 2015.
In total, 13 officers were investigated and seven were given misconduct notices, but none faced further proceedings after the report was issued.
After the report, Assistant Chief Constable, Dawn Copley said: ‘I want to say we openly acknowledge that mistakes were made and victims were let down.
‘For our part in that we apologise to the victims and we give them our assurance that lessons have been learned, changes have been made and we are determined to use this to continue making improvements.’
In April last year, 10 men were jailed for a total of more than 125 years for sexual offences against eight girls and women in Rochdale.
They included Afraz Ahmed, a former bus driver who picked up two of his young victims from school and offered them free tickets.
He was originally questioned in 2006 but a decision was made not to prosecute him after he claimed the girls’ complaints against him were racially motivated.
Former bus driver Ahmed, of Rochdale, was found guilty of various sexual offences, including rape, conspiracy to rape and sexual activity with a child, in relation to five underage victims. He was jailed for 25 years.
Balti House, one of the Rochdale kebab houses where abuse took place, which is now under new management
Also sent to prison were Choudry Hussein for 19 years in his absence for rape, sexual activity with a child and conspiracy to rape.
Rehan Ali, of Blackley, was imprisoned for seven years and Kutab Miah, of Rochdale, for nine years after both were found guilty of rape and sexual activity with a child.
Abid Khan, of Liverpool, was jailed for six-and-a-half years and Mohammed Zahid, of Rochdale, for five years after both were found guilty of sexual activity with a child.
Mohammed Dauood, of Burnley, was jailed for 16 years after he was convicted of offences in relation to two victims including rape, sexual activity with a child and sexual assault.
David Law, of Ilkeston, Derbyshire, was jailed for 11 years after he was convicted of conspiracy to rape.
A tenth defendant, Mahfuz Rahman, of HMP Garth, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to three counts of sexual activity with a child. He was jailed for five-and-a-half years last September.
A then-40-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was jailed for 23 years after he was convicted of rape and attempting to abduct a child in relation to three victims. He will serve an additional eight years on extended licence when he is released.