The 27-year-old mother sitting beside me on a suburban park bench is trembling with a mixture of fear and rage. She can barely suppress her anger as she recalls the moment she watched a video of a refugee being escorted from an aircraft at Heathrow after a mutiny by passengers halted his deportation.
As The Mail on Sunday revealed last year, that man was Yaqub Ahmed, a Somalian who a decade earlier had been convicted and jailed with three others for a sickening gang rape.
Today his victim breaks her silence and, in an exclusive interview, condemns the holidaymakers who stepped in to defend him, ignorant of the horrifying attack that ripped her life apart.
In the video, filmed by a passenger, Ahmed, 29, is seen screaming as a group of people on board bellow at officials to ‘take him off the plane!’
For Hannah (not her real name), those pantomime-style cries were as nothing compared to her terrified screams as she fought for her life during Ahmed’s gang’s attack in a dingy flat in North London in August 2007 when she was just 16.
‘You think that was a bad scream? Try hearing the screams that I made,’ says Hannah in a powerful message to the ‘bleeding heart’ passengers who decided to intervene in Ahmed’s deportation.
And she asks them: ‘How could you defend a rapist? How could you intervene? He was in handcuffs, he was being taken out of the country… who are you people to interfere with justice?
‘Fair enough you didn’t know the situation, but now I hope you feel proud of yourselves because you stopped something that I have waited for for so long: something that made me feel that little bit safer.’
Her four tormentors were jailed for a total of 35 years and, while one is believed to have died after fleeing to Syria to fight for the Islamic State group, she is haunted by the thought of seeing the others who have now been released and remain in the UK.
Ahmed’s deportation would have given Hannah a modicum of comfort, but since the failed attempt to kick him out, her mental health has collapsed.
Yaqub Ahmed, 29, was convicted of gang raping a 16-year-old in a North London flat in 2007
Already struggling to cope with the complex post traumatic stress disorder triggered by her rape, she is now too terrified to travel more than two miles from her home. In November she quit a job that she loved due to her mounting anxiety and stress.
‘A lot of the time I just feel hopeless, it’s never going to end, I’m never going to get away from it,’ she says. ‘They need to deport him. How have they allowed this to happen? It’s an absolute farce. I thought there was meant to be victim’s rights. Where are my rights here?’
Officials escorting Ahmed on the flight to Turkey last October abandoned his deportation shortly before take-off after around a dozen passengers – unaware of his sickening crime – took pity on him and angrily intervened. The three-and-a-half minute video posted online showed passengers waving camera phones amid a barrage of shouts and whistles. One bearded British man in a blue T-shirt approached Ahmed before telling fellow passengers: ‘He says they’re separating him from his family, his family’s here.’
Another man jabbed his finger at an official and, drawing his finger across his throat for dramatic effect, barked: ‘When he gets to Mogadishu, they’re going to kill him.’
Ahmed’s victim, known as Hannah for this article, spoke to the Mail on Sunday about seeing the video of her attacker
To applause from the passengers, the four-strong Home Office team finally relented and frog-marched Ahmed from the aircraft as one holidaymaker shouted: ‘You’re free man!’
Hannah was unaware of the failed deportation until she read this newspaper’s front page story five days later and realised Ahmed was one of her rapists.
Eventually she summoned the strength to click on the video and, as she sat in her bedroom, was horrified by what she saw. ‘I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video at first, I just read the article, but when I finally did watch it, I was in my room and it was just awful. I got so angry and upset,’ she says.
‘I feel like I should have been told, so I didn’t have to find out in the way that I did.
‘I just didn’t want to see his face again. They applauded and cheered and said, “You’re free man!” It just enraged me.’ Five months later, Ahmed remains in an Immigration Removal Centre at a cost to taxpayers so far of at least £18,000.
Home Office sources say the Government is still planning to deport him, although he appears to have launched yet another appeal.
He was listed to appear before an immigration tribunal in Nottingham on March 14. Both the Home Office and the tribunal last week refused to reveal the outcome of the hearing.
For Hannah, the intense focus on Ahmed’s botched deportation has brought horrific memories of the incident from 11 years ago flooding back.
Ahmed was going to be deported to Somalia, before a group of passengers intervened last year
By her own admission, she was a wayward teenager and by the age of 16 had moved out of the family home and was living in a hostel.
Her life changed after she enjoyed a night out at the Zoo Bar in London’s Leicester Square. After becoming separated from her friend she was approached by a man – now known to be Adnan Mohamud – who persuaded her to go to a flat in Crouch End on the false pretext that her friend was there waiting for her.
‘I couldn’t find her and I had no phone or bus pass. She had everything,’ Hannah recalls. ‘I was calling out and this guy approached at me and said, “Your friend has gone with one of our friends.” ’
She then recalls the terrifying moment she realised that she had been lured into a trap.
‘I got to the place and my friend wasn’t there. They said she had gone to the shop and that she was coming back.’ She buries her head into a pale blue scarf and sobs, before bravely continuing: ‘They did what they did. They held me down. They took turns.
The passengers told Home Office officials that the man was being separated from his family
‘I kept trying to get at them. That’s why they had me on my front, so I couldn’t get to them easily and then one of them turned me over and I got him by the neck. I just felt this adrenaline. I remember just grabbing him, trying to get any part of him, trying to grab his face. I was trying to bite and claw.’
Hannah punched one of her attackers, only to be punched back. Despite being stunned by the blow, she managed to force her way past the men and escape, tumbling down a flight of stairs as she fled.
By the time she burst free, neighbours who had heard her screams had alerted police who arrested the men at the scene.
Despite overwhelming forensic evidence, the men, aged between 18 and 20 at the time, denied rape, forcing Hannah to relive the ordeal during several days of cross-examination at a trial. It left her even more traumatised. ‘They had four barristers and they were saying some awful things to me. The things they said to me messed me up for years.’
One man yelled out ‘you’re free man’ after Ahmed was escorted off the plane and back to Heathrow Airport
Yaqub Ahmed, then 19 and living in Clerkenwell, North London; Adnan Mohamud, 19, who lived in the flat where the rape took place; and Adnan Barud, 21, from Holloway, North London, were each jailed for nine years for planning and carrying out the rape. A fourth man, Ondogo Ahmed, 19, also of Holloway, received eight years for conspiracy to rape.
As he sentenced them, the judge said their actions would have a severe psychological impact on their victim – an assessment that has tragically proved only too true.
Various therapies have so far failed to help Hannah, who has struggled to access the specialised mental health care she needs. ‘The PTSD thing is the worst because that can come in at any time. Certain things will just trigger me off.’
Ondogo Ahmed, was one of one of Yaqub’s accomplices. He disappeared from the UK and died while fighting for ISIS in 2013
Hannah says her primary school-aged daughter has provided something to live for but fears her anxiety affects their relationship. ‘She is my world but I am not able to be the best mum at the minute. She has seen me crying recently and its hard – it’s spilling out into my mothering duties.’
Hannah, who has now moved out of London, contrasts her struggle to find help with the huge sums of taxpayers’ money spent on Yaqub Ahmed, who is thought to have been granted refugee status after arriving in Britain from Somalia as a youngster.
Last month, The Mail on Sunday revealed how Ahmed’s lawyers had been reimbursed £3,339 in legal aid for their work in challenging his detention and removal between 2010 and 2016. The solicitor and barrister who acted for him at his Crown Court trial got £28,000 and his ongoing stay in a detention centre is believed to cost £100 a day.
Ahmed is not the only gang member the Government has failed to kick out.
Mohamud, also born in Somalia, was released from prison in May 2013 and initially told that he was not liable for deportation.
The Home Office reversed that position eight months later when the security situation in Somalia improved, but he has been fighting the move ever since. A spokesman for his legal firm Fountain Solicitors declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Barud, who was released in July 2014, cannot be deported because, while born in Somalia, he has British citizenship.
Hannah was saved by the police, after she burst free from her attackers and screamed for help
Ondogo Ahmed, who is thought to have been born in Eritrea, was released in 2012 and, despite being on licence, astonishingly managed to sneak out of Britain and join IS in Syria. The Ministry of Justice told Hannah earlier this month that he is believed to have been killed there but ‘there is still an outstanding warrant for his arrest, should this information not be correct’.
She is understandably astonished that he was able to flee. ‘How was he allowed to abscond when he was meant to be on licence? Isn’t that their job, to be keeping tabs on dangerous individuals?’ But Hannah saves her anger for the officials on the deportation flight.
‘They should have executed their job, which is to calm things down, to tell the passengers if they don’t stop causing trouble they will be removed from the flight just like any other unruly passenger.
‘The more they stuck up for him, the more he screamed. It’s like a kid having a tantrum, the more attention you give that kid, the worse their screams get.’
She thinks the passengers were seized by a ‘mob mentality’.
‘It’s the bleeding heart brigade. They see someone in handcuffs and they are assuming it’s an injustice.
Hannah was particularly aggrieved at the Home Office officials who took Ahmed off the plane
‘Those people should have realised it takes a lot to get someone deported, maybe we shouldn’t interfere. It was just people who wanted to do a good deed and feel proud of themselves.’
Sarcastically clapping their actions, she adds: ‘Well, I hope you all feel proud of yourselves.’
Hannah says she has decided to speak out in the hope that her attackers are finally booted out of the UK. Her pleas for information from the Home Office fell on deaf ears until The Mail on Sunday intervened and a Victim Support Team got in touch.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are determined to protect the public by removing foreign national offenders who commit criminal offences. We are committed to ensuring that the victims of foreign national offenders receive the information they are entitled to should they request it.’
But Hannah despairs of the glacial deportation process and, appallingly, it is she who is now considering leaving Britain.
‘I just want to be able to move around freely, and until I know that they are out of the country I’m never going to get that peace,’ she says. ‘It shouldn’t have come to this. It should have happened already. All I want to do is have the opportunity to rebuild, to recover. I just want what everyone else has.’