British woman, 21, jailed for disguising herself as teen boy to prey on girls online

A British woman who prosecutors say disguised herself as a teen boy to trick potentially dozens of underage girls and groom them into having sexual contact with her, drew prison time Friday.

Gemma Watts, 21, who created an online persona as Jake Waton, a 16-year-old boy, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Friday. She pleaded guilty in November to seven charges of sexual offenses involving four girls – three 15-year-olds and one 14-year-old.

Met Police said Watts used her online alter ego – which they described as very believable – to strike up relationships with the girls.

Gemma Watts, 21, was jailed for eight years for grooming teenage girls while posing as a 15-year-old boy online.

Gemma Watts, 21, was jailed for eight years for grooming teenage girls while posing as a 15-year-old boy online. (Met Police)

Authorities believe her to be a prolific predator, who likely assaulted as many as 50 other unidentified victims.

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Watts would start her grooming by liking young girls’ profiles on Snapchat or Instagram, before sending them complimentary messages. Later, she would call them “Babe” or other pet names in their message exchanges.

On her Jake Waton profile, Watts tied her hair in a bun and wore a baseball cap, jogging pants, and a hoodie as a disguise, Scotland Yard said.

She posted pictures about skateboarding and persuaded her victims to meet her – traveling by train to their homes in various parts of England.

"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," Phillipa Kenwrite, a detective involved in the case, said in a statement. "Her arrest, and now lengthy prison sentence, has prevented her from targeting further victims, but I hope that it also gives reassurance to other victims of sexual exploitation that offenders will be brought to justice."

Gemma Watts, a British woman who pleaded guilty to posing as a teenage boy to sexually groom young girls, walks to the Winchester Crown Court in Winchester, Britain, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson - RC2YCE9WVONL

Gemma Watts, a British woman who pleaded guilty to posing as a teenage boy to sexually groom young girls, walks to the Winchester Crown Court in Winchester, Britain, January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson - RC2YCE9WVONL

The girls, police said, believed they were in genuine relationships with a teenage boy. In several cases, Watts and her victim would have multiple encounters over a period of months.

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Phillipa Kenwright, one of the detectives in the case, told reporters that many of the victims were unaware they had been deceived until they were contacted by police.

“It’s been life-changing for all of the victims involved,” she said. “For some of these girls, it’s one of their first relationships.”

Police said the alarm against Watts was first raised in April 2018 by a Hampshire doctor who said a young patient was seeing an older boy and had been sexually assaulted by her boyfriend "Jake Waton."

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Watts, who left school at 16 and lives with her mother in north London, reportedly continued her activities despite knowing she was under investigation for many more months.

She confessed to the police that she had been sexually active as “Jake” with the first three victims.

Kenwright told reporters that Watts expressed no remorse and has not given an explanation for her actions.