Woman Posed as Teenage Boy To Sexually Assault as Many as 50 Young Girls

Gemma Watts
Metropolitan Police

A 21-year-old woman has been sentenced to eight years in prison after she pleaded guilty to posing as a teenage boy online so she could groom young girls and sexually abuse them. Gemma Watts of Enfield, England, was found guilty January 10 of creating a 16-year-old alias online, "Jake," which police believe she used to assault as many as 50 young women.

  • Watts' scheme unraveled after police were notified by the doctor of a 14-year-old girl, who said she'd been assaulted by "Jake Waton" in April 2018.

    According to a written report from the Metropolitan Police, Watts had used social media platforms such as Facebook, Yubo, Instragram, and Snapchat to target young girls, duping them into "believing they were entering into a relationship with someone whom they could trust," Detective Constable Phillipa Kenwright noted in the statement.

    "She then went on to form physical relationships in which she spun a web of lies and deceit, giving her the opportunity to commit sexual offenses," Kenwright continued.

    When police looked into "Jake Waton," they discovered the name was an alias, and quickly learned it had been Watts all along. She confessed to grooming the victim while pretending to be a 16-year-old teenager named Jake, and she partially admitted to the assault. Bbefore police could finish their investigation, however, Watts posted bail and was released from prison.

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  • Watts continued to groom young girls while out on bail, and was even caught with a missing 15-year-old.

    She was arrested once more in October 2018, after the unnamed victim reported the assault to police. In November 2018, police obtained an interim sexual risk order from Stratford Magistrates’ Court, which allowed police to closely monitor Watts until charges were officially authorized. Watts was finally charged September 12, 2019.

    Watts would disguise herself by tying up her long hair and putting it into a bun, hiding her hair under a hat, and wearing baggy sweats that concealed her figure, the Guardian reported. She would share skateboarding videos with the teens from the North London home she shared with her mother, and flattered her victims by calling them pet names such as "babe."

    When one girl asked about her breasts, she reportedly called them her "manboobs," and dismissed them as a symptom of once being overweight. A second girl confronted Watts after finding a picture of her wearing female apparel, but Watts told her she had only been experimenting with dressing like a woman. She placed a sock in her shorts to convince the girl that she had a penis. Watts was so convincing as a boy, she even spent lengthy amounts of time with some of her victim's parents, who were none the wiser. 

    After her arrest, Watts said that she felt like it had all been a game. “I was only trying to cheer them up," she told police.

    The youngest known victim was just 13. Police hope other victims will come forward.

  • Although Watts will now pay for her crimes, the impact her actions had on her victims has been immense.

    In one victim's impact statement, a teenage girl said her "heart exploded" when she found out that Jake was a woman.

    She said that she loved Jake and thought she could tell him anything, but after the truth was discovered, she's admitted to self-harm and attempted suicide.

    “She’s in my head,” the victim said. “What she has done to me is gross, horrible.”

  • Watts pleaded guilty to one count of assault by penetration, three sexual assault counts, and three counts of meeting a child after sexual grooming.

    "The level of manipulation and deceit used by Watts to snare her victims in this case was truly shocking," Police Constable Nicola Benson of the Hampshire Constabulary's Missing and Exploited Team said in the Metropolitan Police report. "Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation online with increased use of social media apps, and there is a real risk that any contact with a stranger online can lead to a child meeting an offender in person. This case demonstrates the stark reality of that, and it is astonishing the lengths that Watts went to, to ensure she could abuse these girls.

    "I would like to commend the bravery of the girls and their families who found the courage to come forward and make this [conviction] happen," Benson said. "I want them to know that they are not in any way to blame for this, and hope they can now move on from this ordeal."