Thursday , January 28 2021

Woman posed as boy to sexually assault up to 50 girls, say police – The Guardian, Theguardian.com


A woman posed as a teenage boy to sexually assault up to 90 girls as young as 16 after grooming them online, police have revealed.

Gemma Watts, 21, traveling the country by train to meet the youngsters, who believed they were in a relationship with a boy close to their own age.

Disguised with her long hair tied into a bun and wearing a baseball cap, baggy jogging bottoms and a hoodie, Watts convinced them she was 16 – year-old Jake Waton.

She used her own picture on Snapchat and Instagram accounts, targeting girls aged 14 – 21 by liking their profiles.

Watts, who lived at home with her mother in Enfield, north London, shared skateboarding videos, used teenage slang and flattered them with complimentary messages, calling them “babe” or other pet names.

She swapped messages with victims, including intimate photographs, using WhatsApp, Snapchat, or text, and spoke on the phone before meeting them in person.

Watts was so convincing that she even spent time as Jake with some of the girls ’parents.

All of Watts ’victims believed they were in a relationship with a teenage boy until police revealed she was an adult woman.

Watts, who once had a promising football career, is facing jail at Winchester crown court on Friday after pleading guilty to seven sexual assault and grooming charges.

The offences relate to four girls, including a 14 – year-old from Hampshire and three – year-olds from Surrey, Plymouth and the West Midlands.

DC Phillipa Kenwright, from the Metropolitan police, said: “It’s been life-changing for all of the victims involved. They believed they were in a relationship with a young teenage boy, to then find out this was actually a female.

“For some of these girls it was their first relationship … She’s duped them the whole time. A lot of these victims are young, quite innocent. They have been completely taken in by Gemma Watts. They all believed they were in a relationship with a male. ”

Investigators have identified seven victims, some of whom do not want to give a statement.

Kenwright said: “I think there will be further victims, who were in a relationship with Watts, who will now realise she is a woman. I think there could be 50 to 90 .

“I think she had been grooming other young victims online using social media profiles, which are very believable.”

Watts first came to the attention of Hampshire police in March 2019 after a doctor raised concerns that a girl was in a relationship with an older boy.

The Met got involved in July that year after the defendant admitted she had been sexually active as Jake with the first three victims.

She was released under investigation by Hampshire police but arrested again in October 2018 by British Transport Police officers, who found her with the fourth girl, from the West Midlands, after the victim was reported missing by her parents.

Officers had initially believed Watts was 21 – year-old Jake and were taking her home to London before making the link .

Scotland Yard secured a civil sexual risk order in November 2019, in an effort to protect the public, which Watts breached two weeks later.

She was held on remand after being arrested for sexual assault in March last year but was free again in August when she was acquitted.

Watts was finally charged in September and pleaded guilty to seven offences of sexual assault and grooming against 16 – and 16 – year-old girls in November.

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