Woman, 21, jailed for posing as teenage boy to sexually assault to up 50 girls

10 January 2020, 11:30 | Updated: 10 January 2020, 14:11

Watts, 21, will be sentenced on Friday
Watts, 21, will be sentenced on Friday. Picture: Met Police/PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A woman who disguised herself as a teenage boy to sexually assault up to 50 girls, has been jailed for eight years.

Gemma Watts, 21, posed as a 16-year-old boy when she travelled around the country by train to meet young girls, some as young as 13.

Watts tied her long hair into a bun and wore a baseball cap, baggy jogging bottoms and a hoodie, to convince them she was 16-year-old "Jake Waton".

She used her own picture on Jake's Snapchat and Instagram accounts, targeting girls aged 14-16 by liking their profiles.

The 21-year-old, who lived at home with her mother in Enfield, north London, shared skateboarding videos, used teenage slang and flattered them with complimentary messages, calling them "babe" or other pet names.

She would then swap messages with victims, including intimate photographs, using WhatsApp, Snapchat, or text, and speak over the phone before meeting them in person.

Watts was so convincing that she even spent time as Jake with some of the girls' parents.

And all of Watts' victims believed they were in a relationship with a teenage boy until police revealed she was in fact an adult woman.

Watts, who once had a promising football career, is facing jail at Winchester Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to seven sexual assault and grooming charges.

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.

Gemma Watts has been jailed for eight years
Gemma Watts has been jailed for eight years. Picture: PA
She targeted a number of young girls
She targeted a number of young girls. Picture: PA

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," she continued.

"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 DC 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, which include:

- Assault by penetration, sexual assault and grooming against 14-year-old girl from Hampshire;

- Sexual assault and grooming against a 15-year-old girl from Surrey;

- Grooming a 15-year-old girl from Plymouth;

- Sexual assault against a 15-year-old girl from the West Midlands.

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