Evil county lines dealers who killed my son are sexually abusing kids by 'plugging' them with drugs
MUM Karla sobbed hysterically as she chased her son Jacob down the street, desperate to catch him before he vanished to sell Class A drugs for county lines gangs.
The schoolboy was just 13 when he was lured in by evil drug barons – who are forcing 50,000 children to move and sell drugs across the UK, often stashed, or "plugged", inside their bums.
Increasingly, these drug dealers are targeting middle-class youngsters from rural towns who they believe will blend in well as they shuttle cocaine, heroin and cannabis to paying customers.
Yet for Jacob, from the quaint market town of Banbury, Oxfordshire, it ended in tragedy when he was found dead on his bed, with an object tied around his neck, aged 16 earlier this year.
Karla – who features in the new Channel 4 documentary Britain's Child Drug Runners – believes her boy took his own life while secretly suffering "absolute turmoil" over his exploitation.
"I definitely blame county lines – 100 per cent" she exclusively tells Sun Online.
"Jacob would at times get upset but he'd never tell you too much. He'd always deny he was doing it and accuse me of watching too much TV. He got himself in so deep he couldn't get out."
She adds: "It doesn't matter how good a parent you are, or whether you're a single mum, whether you're married, whatever, if they get hold of your kid there's nothing you can do about it."
Desperate Karla tried everything in a bid to save her son.
"People used to say to me, 'Oh if it was my son I'd keep him in'," she says.
"I tried everything – I locked the doors, I got a deadlock, I chased him down the street, I went round to dangerous people's houses. I felt totally and utterly helpless."
Gangs sexually abusing kids by 'plugging' drugs
The documentary reveals how some gangsters involved in Britain's 2,000 county lines are sexually abusing children by forcing them to hide drugs inside their bums and genitals.
"If a person is putting drug wraps up a child's anal cavity, that's sexual abuse," says Katy Harris, strategic intelligence manager at the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit.
"And usually it does require an additional person to do it."
Shockingly, more than 90 per cent of consumed drugs have faecal matter on them.
Jacob, a "funny" and "intelligent" boy, always insisted he never hid the drugs he was ferrying inside his body, but admitted to his mum: "I've got friends who do that."
"[The drugs] would have been in a rucksack or other bag," Karla, 44, tells us.
'If the drugs burst, they've got very little time to live'
But for children who do use their bodies to conceal packages, there can be deadly consequences.
"It's really dangerous because if the drugs burst inside somebody, they've got very little time to live," says Custody Sergeant Steve Clark, of Thames Valley Police (TVP).
He recalls how one young girl recently told him: "There's a Kinder Egg inside me that's burst."
"It's a kind of modern slavery because the payout they're getting back for it does not compensate them for all the effort they're going to have to go through," he adds.
Lured in with cash, gifts and glam videos
Children caught up in county lines are lured in with gifts of money and new clothes and shoes. They idolise gangsters who brag about their 'glamorous' lifestyles on social media.
"At the time, my age, we never saw money like that so I went somewhere… I just disappeared for a couple of weeks," says former county lines runner Jaiden, 18, from Northampton.
Yet the reality is brutally different.
Far from living the high life with wads of cash, these youngsters are forced to spend weeks barely eating, washing or sleeping in destitute crack houses as they sell drugs nearby.
"At first, Jacob thought it was cool," recalls Karla.
"He's hanging around with older boys and he's got this money."
As Jacob was drawn into the sick county lines trade, he began bringing home items associated with drugs – like tiny weighing scales.
Then he stated going missing and getting arrested by police.
"I think I must've had 30, 40 calls to the police that he'd gone missing," says his mum, who spent her days "living on a cliff edge" praying her son would return alive.
Middle-class kids in rural areas at risk
Until then, Karla hadn't been aware gangs were targeting rural towns like Banbury – which lies just off the M40 between London and Birmingham, and has become a county lines hotspot.
"I thought it was something that happens in cities," she says.
Former gang member Tanayah Sam explains how all kids are at risk: "This affects the white middle-class child as well as it affects the child that's coming from a low-income family."
Once lured in, these youngsters are trapped. Gangs often force them to watch beheading and shooting videos and threaten to kill their families unless they do what they say.
Parents left feeling "utterly helpless"
Some days, Jacob's confident exterior would shatter and he'd break down crying, saying he owed drug dealers money. And when his phone rang, his mum could "tell he didn't want to go out".
Police and social services tried their best to help the teenager, including putting him in residential care for months, away from the drug gangs, before he moved back home.
'I plugged drugs up my bum at 13'
TEENAGER Daniel, from Northampton, was just 13 when he stuffed drugs up his bum – something police refer to as "plugging".
He reveals in the Channel 4 documentary: "Basically, you gotta do what you gotta do.
"When you do Class A you bend over, your wrap it up in cling then you go… put it up your bumhole."
He adds: "I've seen man do it in front of me… I've done it when I was 13."
Police use drug recovery toilets to retrieve stashed substances. Some suspects have been seen vomiting stool, while others have had to be hospitalised to have the drugs removed.
Katy Harris, of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, says of plugging: "It's obviously extremely dangerous, it's very unpleasant and it's something that we would encourage users to think about – that over 90 per cent of the drugs that people are consuming has got faecal matter on it."
She adds that inserting drug wraps inside children's bottoms is sexual abuse – something that is being fuelled by those who buy the drugs, including cocaine users living in middle-class suburbs.
"You may have somebody who buys Fairtrade bananas, who works really hard to buy organic… but at the same time potentially could be buying powder or crack cocaine from a county line which has involved the plugging of a child, which is child sexual abuse," Katy says.
Daniel, now aged 15, was just 11 when he first became involved in county lines gangs. But despite receiving money and clothes from gangsters, he didn't see it as grooming.
"All I knew of grooming was girls, never boys," he says.
Mum's heartbreaking discovery
But in April, Karla went upstairs to check on Jacob – and found him dead.
"He was laid across his bed and as I got closer I realised that there was something tied around his neck and I realised that he had… he was gone," she tearfully recalls.
The cause of death has yet to be established, but Karla – who asked for her surname not to be published – believes the county lines trade "played a massive part" in it.
"I think it was a cry for help that went too far," she tells us.
She adds in the programme: "I'm never going to see him get married or have children… his friends are doing their GCSEs and he's laid in a mortuary, basically."
Karla, an activity coordinator, believes more resources need to be provided for police, youth services and social services – who have "far too many cases to deal with".
She says officers need more power – and that a tougher approach should be taken towards children caught up in crime so they realise there are consequences in life.
"They don't like to criminalise you until you're 18," she tells us.
"Jacob used to say to me, 'I can do what I like until I'm 18'.
"I'm not saying I wanted my son to get into trouble – of course I didn't – but he just grew in confidence because there were never consequences."
- Britain's Child Drug Runners airs on Channel 4 at 10pm tonight
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