South Yorkshire men accused of abusing 12-year-old girl say they have 'never met' their alleged victim

Three South Yorkshire men accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl for a period of a year all deny any wrongdoing, with two claiming they have never met their alleged victim, a court heard.

The three defendants arrive at Sheffield Crown Court. L-R: Sajid Ali; Riaz Makhmood; Zaheer Iqbal

Sajid Ali, 38, Zaheer Iqbal, 40 and Riaz Makhmood, 39, face a total of 15 counts of indecent assault that are alleged to have been carried out on a girl aged between 12 and 13-years-old in the Masbrough area of Rotherham.

Summarising the evidence in the trial at Sheffield Crown Court this morning, Judge David Dixon told jurors how Ali, of Jones Street, Masbrough and Makhmood, of Falding Street, Masbrough said they had never met the complainant in the case, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

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Judge Dixon said: "Sajid Ali says 'I didn't do it, I wouldn't do it, in this community it wouldn't have happened. I don't know her, I don't know why it's being said'."

He continued: "Riaz Makhmood said 'this is quite a tight community and if I had done that sort of thing, someone would have known about it and it would have got back to my father and I would have got in trouble'."

Judge Dixon told jurors that during his evidence, Iqbal said he knew his alleged victim, as one member of a group of young people he would say hello to when passing them on the way to his sister's house, but categorically denies committing the offences he is accused of.

Iqbal, of St John's Avenue, Masbrough said he 'knew of things going on' in relation to the type of offences he has been accused of but said he had never been involved himself, the court was told.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between June 1994 and June 1995, when all of the defendants would themselves have been aged between 15 and 17-years-old.

Their alleged victim, is now in her 30s, and first went to the police in 2014.

Judge Dixon reminded jurors how the woman said she went to police a few days after watching a Panorama programme about child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, something the defence counsel in the case questioned.

He said: "The defence say isn't that just too coincidental? Isn't that something she would have raised concerns about earlier."

In police interview said she never told anyone what had happened and waited until then to report the matter to the police because she had felt too ‘ashamed’ and ‘guilty'. The court was told the woman told her sister-in-law about the abuse she is alleged to have suffered six months before the Panorama programme aired.

When the woman was interviewed she told officers that she only knew the three defendants by their nicknames; with Ali being referred to as ‘Sos,’ Iqbal as ‘Booty’ and Riaz as ‘Raz’.

The woman said she had not long started secondary school when the offences took place and initially believed Ali was her boyfriend.

After initially pressurising her to perform sex acts on him, she said Ali then began instructing her to do the same to his two friends. She said she believed she had ‘been drinking’ alcohol provided by the defendants before each and every time she was pressured into performing sex acts on them.

Following this morning's summing-up, Judge Dixon sent the jury out to consider their verdict. They are due to return to court tomorrow for further deliberations.