Following the conviction of Dewsbury market trader Mohammed Damaniya for trying to groom an under-age girl for sex, Danny Lockwood spoke to one of the women who tracked him down.
KIRSTY KELLY is a 30-something mum of three from West Lothian, the district in Scotland between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. She’s an ordinary mum and housewife during the day but once the kids are home from school she switches on her second phone – “mummy’s bad phone” as her six-year-old calls it.
He knows that mummy catches the bad men who say nasty things to children and the police take them away. When he told a police officer on a school visit about mummy’s bad phone, the PC laughed and told him, “your mummy does a very good job!”
The phone uses fingerprint recognition software. Her children can’t see some of the horrific messages, photos and videos she is sent.
Kirsty was one of the Parents Aligned team who confronted Mohammed Damaniya at Dewsbury market in February.
Three times since initiating contact with a decoy he thought was a “pure” 14-year-old girl in Blackpool, he had arranged to book a hotel so that he could take her virginity.
But three times Damaniya, from Thornhill Lees, got cold feet. So the girl – a woman who poses as a decoy from Parents Aligned – Kirsty, and another man and woman, decided to visit him at his Taste of India food van on the market.
At Leeds Crown Court last week he was given a 22-week suspended prison sentence. It was his first offence and for Kirsty it was one more online predator brought into the daylight.
It’s two years since she, along with her late friend ‘CJ’ – who worked with victims of sexual exploitation – set up Parents Aligned.
“I have young kids and I want a safer world for them,” she said this week. She dedicated the conviction of the paedophile they nicknamed “MoDam” to CJ, her friend who passed away from cancer before he came to court.
Kirsty has been involved in about 20 stings, including one in Scotland just last week, when the suspect tried to run away. When they stood in front of his car he ran over a pedestrian’s foot and almost hit another woman. As Kirsty explained, tracking down paedophiles can be dangerous at times – she spoke of a ‘hunter’ in England having a finger bitten off.
She describes how their decoys set up online profiles but never – never – initiate contact with men.
“Quite often the decoys will say they are 18 but when the groomers start contacting them, they always make clear their ‘real age’.” Typically, says Kirsty, these will be anything from nine to 15. “You would be surprised at the number of men who reach out to the really young girls,” she added.
Not all their helpers become decoys. Some simply can’t deal with what is said or messaged.
In the Damaniya case, he was easy to find – he’d sent the decoy a photo of his Dewsbury market business. However, when the Parents Aligned group arrived and saw the profile of both the market traders and their customers, they called for reinforcements.
“In the past a crowd has descended on us and become aggressive. The last thing we want is trouble,” she said.
While they did a ‘cafe tour’ of the market area and waited for Damaniya to start packing up, allies from a similar group, Justice Reborn, travelled from Manchester to lend support.
“They came immediately, they were amazing,” said Kirsty.
She described Damaniya as “dead behind the eyes” when he was confronted. He would alternately deny complicity, then admit it was his phone, his messages. He broke off twice to serve customers.
While the confrontation was being filmed, a member of the group was already calling the police.
In court, they watched and listened as Damaniya said he was actually the justice-seeker. He claimed he didn’t agree with vigilantism and was trying to set up a sting to expose them, in order to strengthen his claim with the immigration authorities to remain in the UK. Apparently, he’s here illegally.
Damaniya wasn’t believed, but still only got a suspended jail sentence, which Kirsty described as “pitiful” but not surprising for a first offence.
“What I do believe is that these people should be remanded to prison while awaiting trial,” she said.
“So many times we’ve seen online groomers caught, bailed, and they are back online, looking for new prey immediately. Some have been ‘stung’ a fourth or fifth time before the justice system does its job,” she said.