In 2007, when she was 13, Laura and her family appeared on ITV1’s The Jeremy Kyle Show and during the programme about out-of-control children her elder sister warned her in front of a million television viewers that “your attitude is going to get you in big danger”.
Laura Wilson, 17, was stabbed and thrown into a canal in October 2010, five years after child protection workers first identified her as being at high risk of being sexually exploited. Since 2005, care staff had compiled a large file on her case. Links were identified between Laura, other young girls and a number of British Pakistani men in her home town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Workers at a child sexual exploitation project sent a report to Rotherham social services but no action was taken to remove her from what became an continuing cycle of sexual abuse.
A month after her 16th birthday in 2009, Laura became pregnant by a 20-year-old married man, Ishaq Hussain, during a brief affair that interrupted her sexual relationship with a teenager, Ashtiaq Asghar. They were the latest in a succession of men, most of them British Pakistanis in their twenties and thirties, who were suspected by care professionals of exploiting the girl for sex over a five-year period.
Laura, who had slight learning difficulties, gave birth in June last year. Four months later, a few days before her death, she “shamed” Asghar and Mr Hussain by informing their families of her sexual history with both men.
Asghar’s mother was furious. She hit Laura with a shoe, said her son would never have a baby with a white girl and called her “a dirty white bitch” who should “keep your legs closed”, a murder trial jury at Sheffield Crown Court was told last month. Nicholas Campbell, QC, for the prosecution, said that in subsequent text messages the pair mounted “a mission to kill Laura Wilson”. In one text, Asghar told Mr Hussain: “I’m gonna send that kuffar [non-Muslim] bitch straight to hell.” He talked of buying a pistol and “making some beans on toast”, a reference to spilling blood.
Mr Campbell said that the men decided that Laura was “a loose cannon and they had to get rid of her”.
Asgharlured her to a late-night meeting by a canal and stabbed her several times. One wound was seven inches deep. He pushed her into the water and, when she still “put up a valiant fight” used the point of the knife to force her head below the surface.
Laura was murdered at the same time as a two-month criminal trial last year at which eight British Pakistanis from Rotherham, aged from 20 to 30, were accused of a child-sex offences, including rape, against four local girls aged from 13 to 17. Five men were convicted and jailed. Their prosecution came after a police inquiry, Operation Central, that began in 2008. The Times understands that although police in South Yorkshire knew of concerns about Laura she was not directly involved in the Central investigation.
Asghar and Mr Hussain stood trial for Laura’s murder in May. Asghar, 18, changed his plea to guilty and a retrial for Mr Hussain, now 22, began last month. He was found not guilty yesterday. Asghar will be sentenced later.
Simon Csoka, defending Mr Hussain, said his client was “an unfaithful philanderer whose attitude to women ... absolutely stinks ... but although he’s guilty of many things, he’s not guilty of murder”. Mr Hussain slept with many women because he was “in a completely loveless arranged marriage which had never been consummated”.
Laura’s links with Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation project, Risky Business, and the fact that police and social services knew that as a child she was having sex with adult Pakistanis, did not feature in the murder trial and has never been publicly acknowledged.
Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board, which co-ordinates agency work, undertook a serious case review after Laura’s death but its findings have not been published. Alan Hazell, its chairman, said: “Laura’s situation was complex, which made it difficult for agencies to engage with her, but there were times when agencies may have worked differently or more effectively.”