The father of the main prosecution witness in Britain’s biggest child sex grooming scandal has accused Nigel Farage of exploiting the issue for political gain as the UK Independence party attempts to unseat Labour in a Manchester byelection.
The man, known as Tom, whose daughter’s testimony led to the prosecution of nine Asian men and an overhaul of Crown Prosecution Service rules, said that the anti-federalist party had resorted to British National party-style tactics while campaigning to win Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester.
The town of Heywood, where Tom lives, was at the centre of the Rochdale scandal, after a sex-trafficking gang of men of mainly Pakistani origin were found to have preyed on at least 47 girls, all of whom were white.
Statements issued by Farage and leaflets distributed by his party have blamed Labour’s “love affair” with “immigration, political correctness and multiculturalism” for the betrayal of “white working-class girls”.
The byelection, due to be held on 9 October, was triggered when the veteran Labour MP Jim Dobbin died this month. Labour figures are concerned that Ukip could overturn the party’s 5,500 majority.
Tom said Farage should stop adding to the distress of local families. “I find it abhorrent that Ukip are trying to make political gains from this and use it as a tool. It is not what my family wants.
“Ukip have rarely mentioned child abuse before they came here. It is obvious why they are mentioning it now. It’s for the game.”
Farage visited the constituency this month and told the media: “Just look at the local grooming scandal. This is a prime example of the local authority failing to protect vulnerable residents because the people in power were more afraid of being seen as racist.”
Two leaflets distributed by the party in the campaign have highlighted the grooming scandal as evidence of Labour’s “betrayal of the working classes because of political correctness”.
Tom was moved to speak to the Guardian about Ukip’s tactics after receiving the leaflets through this door. To heap blame on “political correctness” did not fully explain the many reasons why the abuse was allowed to continue, he said. “Its a complex issue about the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and social services, all turning a blind eye. It’s not all about political correctness, although it was a factor.”
Tom moved to an estate in Heywood during the credit crunch.
He first noticed that his eldest daughter, when she was 14, was becoming difficult and unruly. Over a matter of weeks, her behaviour declined as she began to swear and occasionally came home drunk.
In August of that year, Tom and his wife were told by police that their daughter had damaged a restaurant.
While being interviewed, she told detectives how she had been plied with drugs and drink and repeatedly raped by men of Pakistani origin.
She told the detectives that the perpetrators worked in the takeaway trade or as taxi drivers. The gang offered gifts to girls, won their trust and then forced them to have sex.
Some victims were driven between Rochdale, Oldham, Bradford and elsewhere to have sex with men for money.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute in 2009 despite DNA evidence linking the 56-year-old owner of a local kebab shop to the rape of Tom’s daughter. Prosecutors said at the time they doubted whether the girl would be a credible witness.
Distressed by the CPS’s decision, Tom felt drawn to the British National party. He was convinced that they could offer a valid explanation for his daughter’s abuse – that Pakistani men had been allowed to get away with this because of political correctness. However, he soon found he could no longer stomach their hatred of people based on race.
He said: “My mother suffered from Alzheimers but every time she went wandering off, it was Pakistani people who brought her home. You don’t forget that.”
The language that Tom heard used by the BNP was now being used by Farage, he said. “They are the same tactics. Farage doesn’t blame the race of people, he gives national attributes, he thinks that is okay. But there is a fine line.”
At the last election Ukip won just 1,200 votes in Heywood and Middleton, while the BNP received 3,000. With the collapse of the BNP as a party, Ukip can now expect to get most of the combined vote.
The Conservatives’ vote in 2010 was 27.2% of the electorate. Neither Labour nor Ukip expect the Tories to run a strong campaign, which could leave the way for a Ukip surge.
The party’s distinctive purple colour adorns its campaign headquarters on Heywood’s main street, a quarter of a mile from the kebab shop where Tom’s daughter was abused, and a mile from Tom’s home.
Ukip’s candidate, John Bickley, a businessman with historic connections to the area, acknowledged that the issue of grooming was an issue that regularly came up on the doorstep as he canvassed support for the party.
“It is an issue, but immigration and the fact that we are not part of the Westminster establishment are also big here,” he said, whilst pushing leaflets through the doors of houses.
A Survation poll commissioned by Ukip across the constituency has shown that immigration is the top political concern, their activists have claimed.
Labour insiders have grown increasingly concerned by the response they receive on the doorstep. Their candidate, Liz McInnes, a Unite member and NHS biochemist, is fighting her first byelection.
If Ukip’s tactics are successful, there are other seats linked to grooming in Rochdale, Derby, Manchester and Oxford, which would be seen vulnerable.
Toby Perkins, the MP for Chesterfield who successfully fought off a Ukip challenge from Bickley in a byelection in Wythenshawe this year, has taken charge of the campaign.
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale who has campaigned for greater transparency around child sex abuse, has been drafted in to help.
“Ukip are a genuine threat and people across the party are working hard to fight them street by street,” said Danczuk.
Following pressure on the CPS at the dropped prosecution, Tom’s daughter gave evidence against the gang in 2012 as witness A. Her testimony led to nine men being jailed for up to 21 years each for charges relating to grooming and the abuse of children. About a dozen more grooming cases involving gangs across the UK are under investigation.
Tom said that he continued to wrestle with the truth of his daughter’s abuse and the knowledge that other abusers had not been caught. “It is hard to go into town and not know if the bloke standing in front of you in a queue has raped your daughter,” he said.
His eldest daughter has moved away to study at university, and they talk everyday. He is glad she is not in Heywood to witness the current Ukip campaign.
“She has hope. We are not giving up,” he said.
Tom’s name has been changed to protect his daughter’s identity
If you had been following the news today you may have seen the sensational story we posted earlier regarding UKIP’s Commonwealth Spokesman Mujeeb Bhutto.
Bhutto was exposed on the BBC Newsnight programme as the former leader of a gang in Pakistan that was behind a high-profile kidnapping in Karachi in 2004 who then took a £56,000 ransom payment in Manchester.
Bhutto, who regularly appeared as UKIP’s Commonwealth spokesman, and as a party representative was jailed in 2005 for seven years.
He organised a trip to a Leeds mosque for party leader Nigel Farage and canvassed with UKIP candidate Jane Collins during the 2012 Rotherham by-election.He was also thought to have been a key organiser behind the recent UKIP regional conference that took place in Bradford in September 2013.
During the ransom negotiations, Bhutto admitted he was “the boss” of the kidnappers and threatened to have the victim’s head cut off and sent to his father.
Bhutto also boasted that his gang had been involved in many kidnappings and claimed even Pakistan leader President Musharraf could not ensure the victim’s safety.
Following his arrest Bhutto named six other members of the gang who have since been tried in Pakistan for kidnapping and sentenced to death.
At Manchester Crown Court, Judge Martin Steiger told Bhutto, who admitted conspiracy to blackmail: “This was an exceptionally grave and carefully planned offence.
“Guns were employed by the kidnappers, the victim was threatened with execution and you came to the UK to avoid the risk of detection in Pakistan where kidnapping is a capital offence.”
The conspiracy began when Ahmed Naeem, the son of a wealthy businessman was snatched by three armed men outside the gates of the family home in Karachi.
Five days later, Bhutto flew to England and made a series of phone calls to the victim’s father demanding a ransom of £500,000 for his son’s release.
Bhutto told the distressed father that he had two months to raise the cash or his son would be killed, telling him “I have the power to give you such torture that you wont forget it for the rest of your life.”
Eventually a ransom of £56,000 was paid and the cash was to be handed over by an intermediary at Manchester’s Arndale Centre car park.
The meeting was arranged and the ransom money handed over. But the intermediary noted the car number and the vehicle was traced back to a house in Leeds by the police.
Bhutto initially claimed his role was just to collect the money, but he eventually admitted conspiracy to blackmail.
So knowing all these facts I was amazed to read one of his Yorkshire UKIP colleagues, Steve Wells attempt to defend the actions of Bhutto labelling them as “borderline heroic”.
Wells, a UKIP activist from the Bradford area described the kidnapper as ” A perfectly pleasant and genuine guy” and claimed his only involvement was that of negotiator.
Writing on an online political discussion group Wells continued “We don’t know the full facts. So it could well be he only discovered the kidnap after the event and then, rather than keeping out of it, bravely stepped in to resolve the situation without loss of the victim’s life (and preventing his stupid, criminal relatives becoming murderers – for all the good it did them). Illegal, yes – but borderline heroic.”
He ended the discussion by claiming that ” Perhaps Mujeeb would’ve preferred the victim hadn’t been kidnapped either. But, finding afterward he had, did his best to get the guy released alive – and succeeded.”
A man who served as UKIP’s Commonwealth spokesman for a year is the former leader of a kidnapping gang in Pakistan, BBC Newsnight can reveal.
Mujeeb ur Rehman Bhutto’s gang were behind a high-profile kidnapping in Karachi in 2004 and he then took a £56,000 ransom payment in Manchester.
In 2005, Bhutto, of Leeds, admitted being the gang’s “boss” and was jailed for seven years by a UK court.
UKIP said Bhutto, 35, had “recently” resigned his party membership.
A party spokesman said: “When we recently became aware of possible issues relating to his past and raised the matter with him, he resigned his membership.”
Bhutto regularly appeared as UKIP’s Commonwealth spokesman, and as a party representative, in local and national media.
He organised a trip to a Leeds mosque for party leader Nigel Farage and canvassed with UKIP candidate Jane Collins during the 2012 Rotherham by-election.
Bhutto, who said he had left the party in December, told Newsnight he had admitted the charges against him in 2005 rather than risk being sent back to Pakistan and hanged.
“The evidence which was bought against me was from Pakistan. The allegation was simply because of political rivalry,” he said.
He said he planned to appeal against his conviction for conspiracy to blackmail.
Bhutto said he had been granted political asylum in the UK in 2008 and that the case against him in Pakistan had been thrown out by the country’s Supreme Court.
But senior Pakistani police sources insisted that Bhutto was still wanted in Pakistan.
In June 2004, a gang led by Bhutto kidnapped Ahmed Naeem, the son of a wealthy businessman, at gunpoint from a car on a Karachi residential street.
Five days later Bhutto flew to England.
He then negotiated a ransom payment with Mr Naeem’s father, Mohammed Naeem.
“I have the power to give you such torture that you won’t forget it for the rest of your life,” Bhutto said in calls to Mohammed Naeem that were recorded by Pakistani police and reported during his 2005 court case.
Bhutto at one point threatened to have Ahmed Naeem’s head cut off and sent to his father, according to court evidence.
Police in Karachi assisted the victim’s family, and a police source delivered a £56,000 ransom to a car park at Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre. Ahmed Naeem then was released by the gang in Pakistan.
Bhutto was swiftly arrested by Greater Manchester Police in co-operation with Pakistan police.
Ransom in bed
The £56,000 ransom was found hidden in Bhutto’s bed in a house in Leeds, and he was forced to repay it when he appeared in court.
He was sentenced under the name Majeebur Bhutto.
“You came to the UK to avoid the risk of detection in Pakistan, where kidnapping is a capital offence,” said the judge, Martin Steiger.
The other gang members were initially sentenced to death in Pakistan for the offence of kidnapping for ransom, but their sentences were commuted to life in prison in 2007 and one was released.
“Kidnappings have really gone through the roof in Pakistan. It’s the main form of getting money for many terrorist organisations,” said Shahed Sadullah, former editor of The News, part of the bilingual paper The Daily Jang.
“There were two things that were different about this case. One was that there was an involvement with a city which was 5,000 miles away in the UK. The second was that the guys who did it actually got caught.”
In a regional UKIP newsletter from May 2013, Bhutto stated that he had been a member of the party since 2011.
“Our policy in UKIP is not to attack foreign nations, but to work with like-minded parties and support them so there is no export of terrorism to our shores,” he said.
During an appearance on BBC debating show The Big Questions in March 2013, when he was frequently referred to as “UKIP’s Commonwealth spokesman”, Bhutto said: “We want controlled immigration where we know who’s coming in, who’s going out.”
Hailed on Twitter
UKIP candidates, associations and official social media channels have previously posted messages indicating that Bhutto had a role as a UKIP representative, beyond being just a party member.
“UKIP have plenty of quality spokesman… Mujeeb Bhutto,” UKIP Bradford and district chairman Jason Smith wrote on Twitter in May 2013.
“Watch UKIP’s Mujeeb Bhutto speak out against mass uncontrolled immigration on the BBC’s Big Question,” read a tweet from UKIP’s official Twitter feed in March 2013.
Jane Collins, said on Twitter in March 2013 that Mr Bhutto was “fantastic on BBC Big Question this am. What an asset for UKIP”.
In the course of the last month, Twitter, LinkedIn and multiple Facebook profiles of Mujeeb Bhutto have been deleted from the internet.
“If you don’t have any discipline and tight screening of candidates, you are perpetually going to be in trouble,” said Matthew Goodwin, of policy institute Chatham House and co-author of Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain.
“UKIP are certainly trying to professionalise, to move away from its more amateurish origins.”
Bhutto said he had now rejoined the Conservative Party, but the Tories said they had no record of that.
Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy has hit back at UKIP calls for handguns to be legalised – warning we should be ‘grateful’ Britain lacks a US-style gun culture.
He said there was no need to revisit the debate, arguing it would inevitably make it easier for criminals to obtain firearms.
His comments came after party leader Nigel Farage called the current handgun ban ‘ludicrous’ and called for it to be reversed.
He later told the MEN there was ‘almost no link’ between gun ownership and crime .
Legalisation would in no way cause a rise in firearms offences in the city – or see it regain the ‘Gunchester’ tag, he said.
But Sir Peter dismissed the comments – saying nobody other than Mr Farage was questioning the ban.
“The trouble is that even if we license handguns, we end up with more in the system,” he said.
“We know at the moment it’s actually pretty hard to get a firearm in Manchester.
“We should all be grateful that we have got such tight gun control in this country – when you look at the States, it’s awful over there.
“We should be pleased we have had the success we have had.”
Gun crime has fallen dramatically in Manchester in recent years.
In its darkest days parts of the city were dominated by bloody gang feuds that saw a string of brutal executions – and innocent bystanders also gunned down.
Since then police have worked with local communities as part of their specialist gun crime unit Xcalibre, resulting in just 11 shootings in the six months to October, compared to nearly 150 in 2007.
Speaking to the MEN yesterday during a by-election walkabout in Wythenshawe, Mr Farage stressed that only ‘sensible, decent people’ would be allowed to own handguns under his plan.
But Sir Peter said the debate was ‘absolutely’ not one he wished to see reignited, adding:“We would rather dwell on the success we have had, which has transformed the reputation of Manchester and we should be grateful we don’t have the problems other countries have had.
“I don’t think anybody else [in this country] is having the debate.”
Ukip’s latest parliamentary hopeful has refused to criticise homophobic comments made by one of the party’s councillors who blamed recent flooding on gay marriage.
John Bickley, who is standing for Ukip in next month’s Wythenshawe and Sale East byelection, said “I am not going to condemn someone for their religious beliefs.”
But he added that the party was right to suspend David Silvester, a councillor in Henley-on-Thames who said gay marriage was a “spiritual disease” that caused the floods over the Christmas and New Year period.
Bickley, launching his campaign in Sale, Greater Manchester, on Thursday, said: “I think it’s absolutely OK for somebody to have a personal view, whether you agree [with it] or not.”
He said Ukip was growing very quickly, and that it was inevitable that there would be a range of views within a larger party membership.
Bickley hopes to overturn Labour’s 7,575 majority on 13 February. The byelection was triggered by the death of MP Paul Goggins this month.
Bickley, a former Labour supporter and son of a “staunch trade unionist” who grew up on the Wythenshawe housing estate, joined Ukip in 2011.
“Labour has let down the working class, and my father, a lifelong supporter [of the Labour party] and trade unionist, would be turning in his grave,” he said on Thursday.
Paul Nuttall, deputy leader of Ukip, said he was confident Bickley would poll strongly, and “change the stereotype that we are a southern party made up of ex-Conservatives”.
Nuttall, who had been mooted as a possible candidate for the seat, said: “I’m making it my life’s mission to prove that Ukip does appeal to voters in the north.”
Bickley, 60, runs his own firm selling a mobile phone app producing personalised greetings cards. But he has also worked for EMI records in sales and marketing and Psygnosis, a video games firm bought by Sony.
He said he decided to enter politics after becoming disgusted with David Cameron for reneging on the Lisbon treaty. “Parliament has outsourced the running of this country to the EU, it needs to take responsibility,” Bickley said. “I love Europe, it’s people and culture, but Labour and the Conservatives have subjugated – by stealth – control of this country to the EU and its quangos.”
In the 2010 general election Ukip came in fifth place, polling 1,405 votes in a constituency that includes the affluent suburb of Sale as well as Wythenshawe, which is among the most deprived areas of Greater Manchester.
In Sale town centre on Thursday Caroline Lewis said she was a recent convert to Ukip, having previously voted Conservative.
“I’m voting for them precisely because of immigration and Europe. Our hospitals are at breaking point, our pensioners are dying from the cold. It’s all wrong,” said the 37-year-old telesales executive.
The other major parties have yet to announce their byelection candidate. On Friday Labour will chose from a shortlist of five: Manchester city councillors Rosa Battle (niece of the former Labour MP John Battle), Catherine Hynes and Suzannah Reeves; Mike Kane, acting chief executive of Movement for Change, a network of community organisers; and Sophie Taylor, a physiotherapist and Trafford councillor.