Man 'did not know' sex was with underage Telford girl

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Image copyright Helen Tipper
Image caption Ayad Abdulla Hizam, Ghamer Sulayman and Saleh Qasem deny charges relating to a teenage girl

A man who had sex with an underage girl has told a child sexual exploitation trial he thought she was 16.

Ayad Abdulla Hizam is charged with four counts of sexual activity with a child - "consensual", the court heard, but with the prosecution accusing him of knowing she was actually 15.

He denies the charges, plus a further four counts of child abduction.

A co-defendant is accused of rape amid allegations a gang waited to have sex with the girl in a shop's car park.

Debra White, representing Mr Hizam, 21, from Bridgecroft, Birmingham, told Shrewsbury Crown Court "age is the issue" with all eight charges, and reminded the jury of Mr Hizam's evidence in which he said the girl, from Telford, told him she was 16.

The prosecution said the teenager had told him her true age, but Ms White said he had given his name, age and address to a hotel the pair had stayed at and had visited her at her grandparents' home.

Earlier in the trial, the jury heard they had sex at the hotel.

Image caption The defence is due to conclude on Friday

Ms White asked the jury: "Do you really think that if Mr Hizam thought she was 15 he would be doing that?"

She also raised doubts over the child abduction charges, describing the girl as "willful and determined", who went to have sex with Mr Hizam of her own free will.

He is standing trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court with Ghamer Sulayman, 22, of Mercia Drive, Birmingham.

Mr Sulayman is accused of raping the girl, with the prosecution alleging earlier in the proceedings he had contacted her through Snapchat and offered to take her shopping.

The prosecution claimed that instead, he took her to a house in Birmingham where he raped her and she had sex with others.

It was also alleged he took her to a supermarket car park where 12 men were waiting in several cars to have sex with her.

Mr Sulayman denies rape and three counts of trafficking.

His defence, along with that of a third man, 19-year-old Saleh Qasem, who denies one charge of trafficking and one of sexual assault, is due to conclude on Friday.