Roker Avenue rape: Sunderland police chief thanks '˜angry and upset' residents for help as attackers are caged for 22 years

A leading police officer whose team helped snare the two Roker Avenue rapists has thanked the community for its support in bringing them to justice.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 5:00 am
Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt.

Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt said her officers had been given significant support from the people of Roker during the rape investigation which has now seen Saheed Rasoolli, 30, and Araz Abdulla, 23, jailed for a total of 22 years.

Residents approached her team over concerns about the attack, as well as other issues, with additional CCTV, extra meetings, patrols and discussions all part of the plan to address their worries.

Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt.

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She said: “I would like to thank the local community.

“People came to speak to us, and that was really important.

“They were angry and upset and we totally understand that, but by working with them, we got to where we are now and that significant work continues.

“I am pleased that two dangerous offenders have now been taken off our streets following this despicable act.

“Their selfishness caused a great deal of upset and distress to both the victim and the local community as a whole. They must now live with the consequences of their actions.

“Rasoolli and Abdulla both insisted their innocence throughout this case, and their convictions are a result of a huge amount of work by an experienced and dedicated team of detectives who leave no stone unturned to ensure offenders are brought to justice.”

Abdulla was arrested after a uniformed officer on patrol in the city centre spotted him, while Rasoolli was found working at a car wash in Middlesbrough.

Abdulla had come to the UK in 2016 from Iraq, while Rasoolli, who is of Iranian descent, had been in Britain for several years and was largely ‘sofa surfing’, which is how he came to be in Roker Avenue.

Details of their sentences will now be passed to the Home Office.

However, Ch Supt Pitt stressed: “This type of offence isn’t about race, it is committed by all sections of society and religions, it can be committed by anybody.”

She also praised the bravery shown by the victim after the trauma of the attack.

Ch Supt Pitt added: “I would like to take this opportunity to praise the victim and her family for the bravery and dignity they have shown throughout this difficult case.

“While no sentence can change the horrific ordeal that the victim has endured, I hope she can now seek some kind of closure following these convictions.

“Clearly this type of offence is really traumatic, but essentially, she got significant support from the police and that will continue.

“That is really important, because the offenders have been through the criminal justice process, but she has to live with this offence.

“She has had to give evidence which is really difficult and measures were put in place to support her doing that, with screens put up, but it’s still not easy.

“This is a horrendous offence where she has been put in a very vulnerable position she has not been able to get out of.

“I think this has been a really strong investigation because in any rape report it is extremely difficult to get a conviction because it’s one word against another’s and it can be really hard to secure a prosecution.

“Our 24/7 response team attended from Southwick and started the work to make the arrests after identifying the two offenders.

“Special skills are needed and we have experts to help and they deal with some really complex and vulnerable cases.”