British woman jailed for dressing as boy to groom, sexually assault girls

Gemma Watts.
Gemma Watts. Photo credit: Metropolitan Police.

A "deceitful" 21-year-old British woman who dressed up as a young boy to groom young girls and then sexually assault them has been jailed.

A lengthy police investigation beginning in early 2018 found that Gemma Watts, from the London borough of Enfield, was duping young woman by contacting them on social media under the alias of 16-year-old Jake Watton or Waton. After messaging the teenagers, Watts would meet up with them and, in some cases, sexually assault them. 

On November 28, Watts plead guilty to a raft of charges against four victims, including for sexual assault, meeting a child after sexual grooming, and assault by penetration.

On Friday (UK time), the sex offender was imprisoned for eight years and placed on a register for life. She was also made subject to a life-long Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

"In this particular case, Watts targeted her young victims on social media platforms and duped them into believing they were entering into a relationship with someone whom they could trust," Detective Constable Phillipa Kenwright said.

"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 offences."

Inquiries into the woman began when in April 2018 police were contacted by a medical professional claiming a 14-year-old girl had reported being sexually assaulted by her "boyfriend" Jake Waton. An investigation found this was actually Watts, who had also sexually assaulted two other individuals under the age of 18.

A search warrant was executed at the woman's home in July 2018 and she was arrested for several sexual offences. She admitted to grooming the victims while under the alias of Waton and partially admitted to assaulting the teenagers.

While on bail, she continued to groom young woman and was arrested again in October 2018 when she was found with a 15-year-old missing girl. The 15-year-old said Watts sexually assaulted her. 

She was formally charged in September 2019.

"The level of manipulation and deceit used by Watts to snare her victims in this case was truly shocking. 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," said PC Nicola Benson of the Hampshire constabulary Missing and Exploited team.

"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."