January 10, 2020
A woman who posed as a teenage boy to sexually assault up to 50 girls after grooming them online has been jailed for eight years.
Woman, 21, Who Posed As Teen Boy To Groom And Assault Girls Is Jailed
Gemma Watts, 21, travelled the country by train to meet the youngsters, who believed they were in a relationship with a boy close to their own age. Some of the girls were as young as 13.
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”.
Watts was jailed at Winchester Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to seven sexual assault and grooming charges.
Judge Susan Evans QC told her: “Their age, as you plainly knew, made it more likely that they would be sexually naive, enabling you to get away with your deception.
“None of them would have consented to sexual activity with you.
“You groomed each of them with telephone and internet contact to deceive each of them as to your identity.”
She added Watts had caused “severe psychological harm” but accepted that her low IQ, guilty plea, lack of previous convictions and relatively low age at the time served as mitigation.
Watts used her own picture on “Jake’s” Snapchat and Instagram accounts, targeting girls aged 14 to 16 by liking their profiles.
She shared skateboarding videos, used teenage slang and flattered them with complimentary messages, calling them “babe” or other pet names.
Watts, who lived at home with her mother in Enfield, north London, would then swap messages with victims, including intimate photographs, using WhatsApp, Snapchat or text, and speak over the phone before meeting them in person.
She 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 in fact an adult woman.
The offences relate to four girls, including a 14-year-old from Hampshire and three 15-year-olds from Surrey, Plymouth and the West Midlands.
Detective Constable 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 a total of seven victims, some of whom don’t want to give a statement.
But 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 20 to 50,” she continued.
“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 2018 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 the south East force but arrested again in October 2018 by BTP 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 16-year-old Jake and were taking her home to London before making the link.
Scotland Yard secured a civil Sexual Risk Order in November 2018, in a bid to protect the public, which Watts breached just 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 in November.Related... Here's What Grace Millane's Killer Allegedly Told Tinder Date Hours After Murdering Backpacker
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