10th January, 2020
A twenty-one-year-old British woman may face a jail term for posing as a teenage boy to deceive dozens of young girls into having sexual contact with her.
Police described her male alter ego as ‘very believable’ as the culprit, Gemma Watts, created an online profile as Jake Waton, a 16-year-old boy, and used social media to strike up relationships with girls as young as 14.
She, however, pleaded guilty in November to seven charges relating to four victims aged 14 and 15. The charges included sexual assault and meeting a child following sexual grooming. Watts, who is on bail, is due to be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court in southern England.
She would start her grooming by liking girls’ profiles on Snapchat or Instagram, then sending them complimentary messages. Soon she would be calling them “Babe” or other pet names. Her own profile as Jake Waton featured posts about skateboarding and photographs of herself, dressed in baggy sportswear, with her long hair tied up in a bun and hidden under a cap or hood.
Having persuaded her victims to meet her, Watts traveled by train to their homes in various parts of England. The girls believed they were in genuine relationships with a teenage boy. In several cases, there were multiple encounters over a period of months. She met the parents of some of her victims and had conversations with them. They too were taken in.
Phillipa Kenwright, one of the detectives involved in the case, said the victims were unaware they had been deceived until they were contacted by police, and it had been devastating for them to learn the truth.
“It’s been life-changing for all of the victims involved,” Kenwright told reporters in a briefing ahead of sentencing. “For some of these girls, it’s one of their first relationships.”