A Somalian whose deportation from Britain was dramatically halted after airline passengers staged a mutiny demanding his release can be exposed today as a convicted gang rapist who was being kicked out of the country because of his sickening crime.
Officials escorting Yaqub Ahmed on a flight from Heathrow to Turkey were forced to abandon his deportation when around a dozen holidaymakers who felt sorry for him angrily intervened shortly before take-off.
At one stage during the astonishing episode, filmed on mobile phones, one traveller complained: ‘They’re separating him from his family’, while others chanted ‘take him off the plane’.
When harassed security guards caved in and walked 29-year-old Ahmed off the Turkish Airlines flight, he was seen thanking those on board for their support as they cheered and applauded.
One person was heard declaring: ‘You’re free, man!’
Yaqub Ahmed, 29, is one of a gang of rapists who brutally assaulted a young girl. The 16-year-old victim was gang-raped in a flat in New Orleans Walk in Crouch End on August 10
Passengers helped Ahmed get kicked off the plane as he resisted being deported by the Home Office after serving a prison sentence for gang rape
But the passengers who thought they were doing a good deed were unaware that the man they were defending had been sentenced to nine years in jail for his part in a vicious gang rape of a teenage girl – and that another member of his gang later fought for Islamic State in Syria.
Today The Mail on Sunday can reveal how Ahmed and three other youths preyed on a 16-year-old stranger after she became separated from her friends during a night out in London’s Leicester Square, in August 2007.
In a planned attack, they lured her back to a flat in Crouch End, North London, by pretending her friends were waiting for her there – then gang-raped her.
The gang, aged between 18 and 20, were caught when neighbours heard the girl’s cries for help and rang police.
All four men denied rape, despite DNA evidence. They were found guilty at Wood Green Crown Court and each jailed for nine years. Police detective Emma Bird said at the time: ‘The sentences given out by the judge reflect the seriousness of this offence.’
Ahmed, 18 at the time of the rape and living in Clerkenwell, North London, is thought to have been granted refugee status after arriving in Britain from war-torn Somalia as a boy.
Stunned plane passengers turned around to witness the commotion at the rear of the flight
He was released from prison after serving little more than four years, and lived in a halfway house in North London until recently. Because he had been jailed for such a serious crime, the Home Office ordered his deportation, which led to him being placed on the flight to Istanbul last Tuesday afternoon.
He received a temporary reprieve because of the impromptu intervention of passengers. But when video of the protest was published by MailOnline, hundreds of readers expressed their outrage.
One wrote: ‘The police should have been called and all the passengers who were interfering should have been arrested and removed from the plane.’
Another user said: ‘Looked like a plane full of snowflakes.’ And a third pointed out: ‘Now it will cost a lot more to fly the man back on a private charter! Well done silly interfering, self-seeking, do-gooding idiots!’
Ahmed is now believed to be in an immigration detention centre while officials try to place him on another flight out of the UK, but this process could take months particularly if his lawyers use his temporary reprieve as an opportunity to appeal against his deportation.
Last night, Tory backbencher Philip Hollobone, who has tabled bills to speed up the deportation of foreign criminals, said: ‘We need to deport these people and members of the public should not be allowed to obstruct the proper course of justice.
‘Officials accompanying the deportee need to react appropriately to passengers who do not know what is going on. To simply walk off in the face of passenger confusion is not good enough.’
Harry Fletcher of the Victims’ Rights Campaign said: ‘This deportation was clearly in the public interest. Sitting deportees in the general passenger area of a plane is wrong and leads to this kind of ill-informed protest.’
Ondogo Ahmed was jailed for eight years alongside Ahmed for the gang rape of a teenager
Passengers caused a commotion when they realised Ahmed was being deported – although he did not tell them he was a convicted rapist
Passengers began to record what was happening and stood up for the man, now 19, being returned to Somalia
A man pulled out his camera phone to record the deportation team at the back of the plane until so much pressure was put on security the Somalian was led off the plane
It is not the first time that planned deportations have been disrupted on planes.
In July, a Swedish student filmed herself halting the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker on a Turkish Airlines flight from Gothenburg to Istanbul.
Elin Ersson said in the video that was streamed live on Facebook: ‘A person is going to get deported to Afghanistan where there is war and he’s going to get killed.’
Then, in August, a Turkish Airlines pilot refused to take off from Heathrow after campaigners convinced him that the asylum seeker on his jet would face beheading by the Taliban if he was returned to Afghanistan.
Virgin Airlines has stopped assisting the deportation of illegal immigrants after pressure from activists.
The Home Office previously spent millions of pounds a year chartering planes to fly failed asylum seekers and foreign national offenders to their home countries, most commonly Albania, Pakistan and Nigeria. But because of the cost of the flights, it now increasingly books seats on commercial services.
Latest figures show the Home Office spent £17 million on scheduled flights and £8.6 million on charter flights to deport people in 2016-17.
The man should not be being ‘separated from his family’ according to those who put a stop to his deportation
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘All foreign nationals who are given a custodial sentence will be considered for removal. Those who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them and we have removed more than 43,000 foreign offenders since 2010.’
One of Ahmed’s co-defendants, Adnan Mohamud, was granted refugee status in Britain in 2002 having been born in Somalia, and is still thought to be in the UK. The youngest member of the gang, Ondogo Ahmed, travelled to Syria to fight for Islamic State just months after he was freed from jail. He is thought to have been killed a few weeks later.