Tragedy of 15-year-old Rochdale grooming gang victim who died after being injected with heroin: How Victoria Agoglia was repeatedly ignored despite telling police she was being abused, raped and plied with drugs by predatory paedophiles

One of the tragic victims of the Rochdale grooming gang was a 15-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped and plied with drugs by predatory paedophiles before dying from a heroin overdose. 

Victoria Agoglia was meant to be receiving round-the-clock ‘solo’ residential care, but went missing 19 times in three months for up to two weeks at a time. Instead of trying to find her, carers message her asking: ‘When are you coming back?’

It transpired she was being used for sex by older men in exchange for cash, alcohol and hard drugs – sometimes being abused by up to 25 of them in a single night. 

Dozens of young girls were targeted, abused and raped by gangs of mainly Asian men between 2004 and 2012 in Rochdale as officials stood by. Victoria herself wrote a heartbreaking letter to police documenting her abuse, but was ignored.

Her heartbreaking story is just one of many documented in a new report published yesterday which documents the struggle they faced to be believed. It has also identified 96 men who are still deemed a potential risk to children.

Victoria Agoglia was meant to be receiving round-the-clock ‘solo’ residential care, but went missing 19 times in three months for up to two weeks at a time

Victoria wrote a heartbreaking letter to police documenting her abuse, but was ignored

Victoria wrote a heartbreaking letter to police documenting her abuse, but was ignored

In the run-up to her death in 2003, Victoria Agoglia ran away from her terraced house 21 times in the space of two months, and on five occasions the police were asked to look for her. 

She was raped and was known by her carers to be exploited for sex by older men in exchange for cash, alcohol and hard drugs.

A scribbled note written by Victoria, titled ‘Things I’ve done in the past’, was passed to cops by social services and documented the abuse she suffered at the age of 13. 

Victoria’s devastating letter in full  

Things I have done in the past

I drank, smoked weed, took pills, had blown coke, had heroin – just for what?

All you do is get a laugh out of it but also it can kill you. I am only 13. I got the rest of my life ahead of me.

I have slept with people older than me, half of them I don’t even know their names. I am a slag and that is nothing to be proud of.

Now I think why I did it, just to impress the boys and they treated me like ****. Even one night when I was out I was pilled up with some boy and Sam because they were out of their faces so much they crashed the car. 

Police looked all over Mosside Longsight but we never got caught and all the thing I lost just for drugs. Boys, my family and family is supposed to mean a lot to people at the time it did, not for me. 

So I lost all of that. I just hope I knew that at the time but I did not. Next time you should think family before drink, drugs, sex or money.

Aged 13, 1989  

She wrote how she ‘slept with people older’ than her – ‘half of them I don’t even know their names. I am a sl*g.’

She went on: ‘I think it I did it just to impress the boys and they treated me like ****. All the things I lost for drugs. Boys, my family, I lost all of that.’

The letter was signed off ‘age 13, 1989.’  

Her tone showed how the schoolgirl was in desperate need of help by police. But the letter was never acted upon.  

In September 2003, Victoria visited the home of a 50-year-old Asian man – Mohammed Yaqoob – who injected her with heroin. 

She died in hospital five days later. He was later jailed for three and half years for injecting her with a noxious substance after being cleared of manslaughter.

Maggie Oliver, a former detective who resigned from Greater Manchester Police to go public with her views on grooming gangs, revealed the letter Victoria wrote was included in a police report which was never acted on.

Ms Oliver wrote the report, which even started with a picture of Victoria and her letter in a bid to highlight her case, after launching Operation Augusta in 2004 which set out to investigate the Rochdale child abuse ring.

But shockingly the investigation was quietly shelved by police bosses while Ms Oliver was on a three-month break.

It wasn’t until eight years later that the beasts behind the operation which saw girls plied with alcohol and drugs before being used as sex slaves came to justice.

While the new report focused on events taking place from a year after Victoria’s death, it concluded that lessons were not learned from her death or the resulting Operation Augusta, in which just two of almost 100 suspects were jailed. 

That was despite an investigation into her death revealing 57 victims of grooming gangs, some as young as 12 years old.

One case highlighted by the report is that of Child 44, a teenage girl who had an abortion after being abused at the age of 13 in 2009.

It was revealed that Greater Manchester Police (GMP) secretly took the foetus and performed a DNA test on it to try and link it to possible suspects.

Police launched their first investigation into grooming in Rochdale in 2007

Police launched their first investigation into grooming in Rochdale in 2007

Shabir Ahmed was jailed for 22 years for 30 child rapes at his second trial

Shabir Ahmed was jailed for 22 years for 30 child rapes at his second trial

However, when no matches came up, it was left in a freezer at Rochdale police station and was only found when it was uncovered in a ‘routine property review’.

The girl who had the abortion would only find out in 2011 that it had been taken by the police, with the moment she found out emotionally being reenacted in the BBC drama ‘Three Girls’.

She told the authors of the 173-page report that police had ‘robbed’ her of her unborn child and said it was ‘disgusting’ police had done so without her consent.

In the meantime she had continued to be abused by a grooming gang and at one point was even at risk of being taken to Pakistan by them.

A trial involving the men who abused her eventually took place in 2012, but the girl would find out in the lead-up to this that the man who got her pregnant was not to be charged with her rape. 

He was instead jailed for eight years for conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation, allowing him to be released four years into his sentence, reports the Guardian.

Things got worse for Child 44, as she reported being threatened by a man with a gun before the trial and being harassed and abused on the street by supporters of the men who raped and abused her.

The girl, who even bumped into her abuser in a supermarket after he was released from prison without her being informed, said police told her to just ‘lock your door’ when she asked for help about the harassment.

Another girl who also gave evidence against her abusers reported that her house was ‘trashed, with slag and grass written across the wall’, while her shed was burned down and chickens killed in a campaign of harassment.

The damning dossier also claims that no action was taken against a ‘pimp’ who got a 15-year-old girl pregnant, while another child claimed she was kept locked in cages and made to act like a dog or baby, with again, no action being taken against the men allegedly involved.

The report is the third of four written by child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam CBE and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway – and saw apologies this morning from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Police and Rochdale Council. 

The heartbreaking stories of some of the victims of the Rochdale grooming gangs were portrayed in BBC drama 'Three Girls'. Pictured: A promotional photo for the programme

The heartbreaking stories of some of the victims of the Rochdale grooming gangs were portrayed in BBC drama ‘Three Girls’. Pictured: A promotional photo for the programme

Jahn Shahid Ghani was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for six counts of sexual assault and one count of causing a child to engage in sexual activity last year

Mohammed Ghani was sentenced to 14 years for five counts of sexual assault last year

Rochdale child abusers Jahn Shahid Ghani (left) and Mohammed Ghani (right) were both jailed last year

Insar Hussain was sentenced to 17 years for one count of rape and two counts of sexual assault last year

Ali Kazmi was sentenced to eight years for one count of rape and two counts of sexual intercourse with a child last year

Insar Hussain (left) and Ali Kazmi (right) were also both jailed last year for raping children in Rochdale

The authors previously led a review of Operation Augusta, an investigation into grooming gangs in South Manchester, which was published in 2020, and the review into child safeguarding practices in Oldham, published in 2022.

It followed criticism of failings within Rochdale Council and Greater Manchester Police aired in BBC documentary, Betrayed Girls.

The report considered claims by Sara Rowbotham, co-ordinator of a young people’s Crisis Intervention Team, and Maggie Oliver, former Detective Constable involved with the first large-scale investigation into grooming in Rochdale, Operation Span, launched in 2010.

It found that the pair of ‘lone voices’ had flagged clear evidence of ‘prolific serial rape of countless children in Rochdale’ but that this was not acted upon, with the children’s unwillingness to make a formal complaint repeatedly used as an excuse for not investigating.

Mr Newsam, lead author, said: ‘GMP and Rochdale Council failed to prioritise the protection of children who were being sexually exploited by a significant number of men within the Rochdale area.

‘This review was initiated following the serious allegations made by both Maggie Oliver and Sara Rowbotham and we have found through this review their allegations to be substantiated.

‘Both GMP and Rochdale Council failed to respond appropriately to these concerns.

‘Successive police operations were launched over this period, but these were insufficiently resourced to match the scale of the widespread organised exploitation.

‘Consequently, children were left at risk and many of their abusers to this day have not been apprehended.’

Mr Newsam and Mr Ridgway said: ‘CSE continued to be treated as a low priority and under-resourced by GMP.’

By October 2012, a review group chaired by GMP identified 127 potential victims whose cases had not been acted on – a figure which later grew to 260 potential victims.

After Operation Span, three more investigations – Operation Routh, Operation Doublet and Operation Lytton – saw 30 men convicted, many of whom received lengthy sentences.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, called the report 'a detailed and distressing account of how many young people were so seriously failed'. Pictured: Mr Burnham at the funeral of Everton chairman Bill Kenwright on December 18 last year

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, called the report ‘a detailed and distressing account of how many young people were so seriously failed’. Pictured: Mr Burnham at the funeral of Everton chairman Bill Kenwright on December 18 last year

Files held by officials for 111 children revealed ‘a significant probability that 74 of these children were being sexually exploited at that time, and in 48 of those cases, there were serious failures to protect the child’, the report revealed.

A fourth review is still to take place by Mr Newsam and Mr Ridgway, which is to ‘consider current practice across Greater Manchester to address the risk of child sexual exploitation’ and recent police investigations.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham called the report ‘a detailed and distressing account of how many young people were so seriously failed’.

He added: ‘That said, it fulfils the purpose of why I set up this review in the first place.

Conclusions of the Rochdale grooming gang review

  • The emerging threat of child sexual exploitation was not addressed between 2004 and 2007.
  • In 2007, GMP and Rochdale Council declined to investigate how a group of Asian men had been exploiting 11 children for sex and dealing class A drugs despite concern by the Crisis Intervention Team, in a ‘serious failure to protect these children’.
  • Just one detective was appointed to begin a small-scale police investigation in 2007, which did not investigate how organised crime groups were involved. No charges or convictions resulted.
  • The first investigation in 2008 and 2009 – launched after a girl arrested for smashing up a takeaway revealed she had been raped and sexually assaulted – ‘was complex and needed to be resourced accordingly, but additional resources were not provided’. Although the investigation ‘identified widespread sexual exploitation of many vulnerable children by at least 30 adult perpetrators’, none were charged.
  • A second girl who spoke to the 2008/2009 investigation team complained of sexual assault but ‘insufficient effort was put into identifying the man who raped her’. Had her complaints been ‘pursued with the rigour required it may have strengthened the evidence to proceed with the prosecution’, the review said.
  • Operation Span, the second investigation into the 2008/9 accusations, which saw nine men convicted and jailed in May 2012, was described as ‘relatively limited’.
  • Authorities committed a ‘deplorable’ failure to protect a girl known as ‘Amber’. She was designated a victim of child sexual abuse but the crimes were not formally recorded by GMP and the perpetrators ‘were potentially left to continue their abuse of other children. Instead, Amber was later named as a ‘co-conspirator’ in a trial of men accused of abusing other children. The review said: ‘No consideration was given to how the decision would affect Amber personally or what the repercussions of the decision might be for her family. This failure to protect a vulnerable victim as deplorable.’
  • Lessons were not learned after the death of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia from drugs in 2003 after claiming she had been sexually abused, or the resulting Operation Augusta, a probe into child sexual exploitation in South Manchester which ended in 2005. Just two of almost 100 suspects were jailed despite an investigation into Victoria’s death revealing 57 victims of grooming gangs, some aged just 12.

‘It is only by facing up fully and unflinchingly to what happened that we can be sure of bringing the whole system culture change needed when it comes to protecting children from abuse.’

He apologised to the victims and said: ‘We are sorry that you were so badly failed by the system that should have protected them.

‘I have asked Greater Manchester Police and Rochdale Council to ensure that every possible action is taken to follow up any leads arising from this report and to pursue any potential perpetrators.’

A series of initiatives have taken place around Rochdale since 2012, including better engagement with potential victims and a scheme encouraging hotel owners and taxi firms to report concerns.

Last year, an Ofsted report regarding Rochdale Council – including the Complex Safeguarding Hub – was published and confirmed that ‘children at risk receive an effective response’.

Rochdale Council leader Councillor Neil Emmott said the authority is ‘deeply sorry’ for the ‘very serious failures that affected the lives of children in our borough’ and how officials ‘failed to take the necessary action’.

And Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: ‘It remains to be a matter of profound regret that victims of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale in the early 2000s were failed by Greater Manchester Police – to them, I apologise.

‘I also recognise the plight of Maggie Oliver and Sara Rowbotham – who advocated for victims and survivors when no one else did, and ultimately enabled the review and publication of this report.’

He added: ‘Since nine men were convicted following Operation Span in 2012, there have been a further 135 arrests, 432 charges, and 32 convictions (for child sex grooming).’

Ms Oliver, who resigned from Greater Manchester Police in 2012 to publicly reveal the extent of the police failings about child sexual exploitation, said she remained ‘angry’ that ‘not one senior officer or official has ever been held individually responsible for these failures, lies and cover ups’.

She said the report ‘confirms the truth of what I have been saying for over 12 years’.

Drawing a parallel with the ongoing Horizon scandal at the Post Office, she added: ‘There are so many parallels between that case and this: ‘ordinary’ people being criminalised and silenced, institutional cover ups and corruption in an effort to protect the brand whatever the cost to affected individuals, refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing.’

She added: ‘I am also not assured that lessons have been learned. I can absolutely, categorically say that through our work today at The Maggie Oliver Foundation (a support group she founded), we see on a daily basis that victims and survivors of sexual offences are still routinely treated badly or even inhumanely, still not believed, still judged, still dismissed when they report these horrendous crimes.’

Ms Oliver said her two-decade battle to expose the truth ‘has almost ruined my life’.

She claimed Chief Constable Watson’s remarks had been prepared by a PR department which ‘pretends that these are failures of the past’.

But she insisted: ‘The failures that happened then are still happening now.’

Mrs Oliver, who now runs a charity bearing her name supporting survivors of child abuse, added: ‘I would like to say today that things are a million times better.

‘But if I went to every one of the victims and survivors that approach the Maggie Oliver Foundation every day to say ‘Are things different?’ they would tell you ‘No they are not’.

”There are still far too many victims who are not being heard, who are being criminalised, who are being intimidated, who are being silenced when they dare to raise their head above the parapet.

‘Victims are being let down on a daily basis.’

She called for more resources to be put into investigating and prosecuting grooming gangs across the UK as well as tougher sentences.

Timeline of the Rochdale grooming gang scandals

2008 – A 15-year-old girl reports to police she has been raped repeatedly by a gang of men, and gives details of the abuse taking place above a takeaway in Rochdale. Police arrest two members of a grooming gang – ringleader Shabir Ahmed and Kabeer Hassan.

2009 – Police find evidence that Ahmed had sex with the girl, with the older man claiming she could have swapped underwear with a different young girl he had already admitted to having sex with. Later that year a Crown Prosecution Service lawyer rules that the victim’s evidence is ‘not credible’ and decides the accused should be released without charge.

2010 – Operation Span, a new operation looking into allegations of grooming gangs in Rochdale, is launched with DC Maggie Oliver involved.

2011 – Chief prosecutor for the CPS North West, Nazir Afzal, reverses this decision and authorises charges against the pair.

2012 – His decision is vindicated when Ahmed – then 59 – and eight other men were jailed for a total of 77 years for raping and abusing up to 47 girls aged as young as 13. This sparks apologies from the police, council and CPS for failures that allowed the men to continue abusing girls for an additional two years.

2013 – Maggie Oliver resigns from Greater Manchester Police, claiming that evidence was ignored that could have convicted men who weren’t part of the nine jailed the year before.

2016 – A second group of men are sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for sexual abuse after a victim, encouraged by previous convictions, comes forward with her ordeal.

2017 – A BBC documentary titled The Betrayed Girls features whistleblowers Ms Oliver and Sara Rowbothan, who ran an NHS sexual health clinic in Rochdale, with claims about grooming gangs. Both alleged that multiple known abusers were left free to prey on a generation of girls, with grooming culture embedded in parts of the town. The same year Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, orders a series of reports into how victims were protected up to 2013.

2023 – Five men are given sentences totalling more than 70 years after being found guilty of abusing two girls between 2002 and 2006.

2024 – The third of four reports into grooming gangs – and the first to focus on Rochdale – is released and points the finger at police and council bosses for failing to protect girls from their abusers.