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How drug dubbed 'Meow Meow' became the weapon of choice for sex groomers in Newcastle

Immigration: out of control. Availability of drugs: out of control. Raping of schoolgirls: out of control.


It goes by the names MCAT, Meow Meow, Bubble and Mephedrone, and for Tyneside’s grooming gangs it was the drug of choice.

A top cop has today revealed how the Operation Shelter sex predators would not have been able to carry out their sick abuse without drink and drugs and the dealers that supplied them.

Det Supt Steve Barron, who led the investigation believes the evil abusers may have been as calculated in their choice of substances as they were in their selection of vulnerable victims.

Now, after 17 people have been jailed for their roles in the sex exploitation gang, the detective has told how those who supplied the drugs within the network were as culpable as their associates who carried out the sexual abuse.

“They have facilitated the sexual offending,” he said. “We have of course had some people saying; ‘I’m just a drug dealer’, but I find it hard to believe that they were naive to what was going on.

“Without the premises and the drugs these girls wouldn’t have been abused. These people have been convicted in certain circumstances and they have been sentenced accordingly.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how the vile sex offenders, who preyed on girls and women in the city’s West End, would get their vulnerable victims hooked on the class B drug MCAT then demand they perform sex acts to feed their habits, or while under the influence of the highly addictive substance.

And some of the victims had never tried MCAT before and were introduced to it by their abusers.

Prosecutor John Elvidge QC told how one offender, privately ed­­ucated Mohammed Azram, approached two teenagers in the West End in 2011 and he and another man took them to a hotel on Westgate Road, where they were given alcohol and cocaine.

Azram gave the girls lines of other drugs, the court heard. Mr Elvidge said: “He described it as ‘God’. It was MCat.

“They had never taken that drug before.”

Some of the offenders jailed as part fo the Shelter network were not convicted of sexual offences, but found guilty of crimes including drug supply and allowing premises to be used for the supply of drugs.

But Det Supt Barron, of Northumbria Police, said he believed that without the drugs the sexual abuse might not have been possible.

And the judge, Penny Moreland, who handed hefty sentences to all those involved appeared to agree.

“What we have seen emerge is that there is a framework with in which these perpetrators operate,” he explained. “There is the trafficking of victims the supply of alcohol and drugs, and the use of premises for the supply of drugs, and it is within that framework that these very serious sexual offences of rape and sexual activity with a child takes place.

“We have targeted those other people that have allowed their premises to be used and that have supplied drugs into these party scenarios in the West End. The case that we have put forward is that these people are part and parcel of what we have prosecuted.

In the majority of cases the drugs supplied to the girls was MCAT.

And Det Supt Barron believes the offenders chose this substance because it had the desired effect on their victims, but was not a class A drug.

“These young girls would say it’s highly addictive because it has a rapid come down. Some people say it has a similar effect to ecstasy in that there’s a reduction in sexual inhibitions so it makes them more vulnerable,” he explained.

“But it’s a class B drug so by definition you are going to get a lesser sentence if you are caught with it than you would with a class A.

“For these perpetrators; It’s available, it’s cheap, and it does exactly what they wanted it to do. And if you are caught with it you are not going to go to jail for a long time.

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