Woman allegedly raped in police custody says ‘sex offenders are still serving as officers’


Zayna Iman is demanding answers, six weeks after claiming on Sky News she was raped in a police cell in Manchester.

Police statements released since the report was broadcast appear to contradict things officers have said previously, and crucial footage of Zayna’s time in custody remains missing.

A Sky News report in July featured three women, including Zayna, who claimed they’d been unnecessarily strip-searched by officers. Zayna alleges she was also drugged and raped in custody in February 2021.

Zayna Iman is 'strip searched'
Zayna Iman is ‘strip searched’

Exercising her right to see the footage of her time in the cell she discovered that two hours of the cell footage were missing.

There are conflicting accounts from the police about what’s happened to it.

Investigation into GMP launched

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

‘I’ve been gaslit’, says alleged sex assault victim

Since our investigation was broadcast in July, an inquiry under Dame Vera Baird has been launched into Greater Manchester Police (GMP), and Zayna’s case has been referred back to the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

More on Manchester

Last week she met Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.

But outside the mayor’s office, Zayna described the whole thing as “lip service”, saying she wouldn’t be happy until police officers are interviewed and held to account.

She said: “I’m not happy with the responses. Why do these people not understand that sex offenders are still serving.”

Zayna Iman 'doesn't want to believe her memories'. Pic: Andy Portch
Zayna Iman ‘doesn’t want to believe her memories’. Pic: Andy Portch

‘Unbelievable memories and bad dreams’

At times emotion overwhelmed her as she explained that each time she recounts her story it is stirring the memories, the flashbacks, the bad dreams that she says still haunt her from the 48 hours in Pendleton police station – most of which she spent naked in a cell.

She said: “I don’t talk about my memories, and the reason I don’t talk about my memories – because I don’t want to believe them myself. It would be far easier if Greater Manchester’s narrative of me was right.”

GMP say there’s currently no evidence of criminality or misconduct by officers.

CCTV footage of Zayna Iman in police cell
CCTV footage of Zayna Iman in police cell

Contradictions over corrupt cell CCTV

Zayna has already spent more than two years asking for all the footage relating to her detainment but only after our report was broadcast in July did GMP explain in a public statement that Zayna’s footage was stored on discs but “one disc corrupted” and the “parent footage on the servers had been overwritten.”

They are now trying to forensically recover the missing two hours.

Zayna has never been given this information.

“They were able to tell the media that they corrupted my disc, but you can’t tell me?” she says in disbelief.

In fact, she was told quite the opposite.

Two years ago, the mayor’s office confirmed in a letter to Zayna that GMP said they’d reviewed all the custody footage and “did not find evidence to support the allegations.” There was no mention of corrupted footage.

GMP repeated the claim in a letter to Zayna last year, saying “urgent actions” were taken which included “reviewing the CCTV footage from the cell you were detained in.”

How could they do that if some of it was corrupted?

We asked Manchester’s Deputy Mayor in charge of Policing, Kate Green, who was also baffled by the inconsistency.

Scarlett said police 'know full well that they're in charge'. Pic: Andy Portch
Scarlett said police ‘know full well that they’re in charge’. Pic: Andy Portch

She said: “You are quite right that initially the deputy mayor’s office was assured that the whole footage was available, and it has turned out subsequently that that is not the case – and I think we can expect Dame Vera in the course of her inquiries to comment on how footage is handled.”

Strip-searched at 14

Since our report Sky News has spoken to more women impacted by police strip searches, including Scarlett, 18, who says she was “humiliated” during a strip search at the aged of 14 in Greater Manchester.

Scarlett, who was arrested but not charged with any crime, claims the search was conducted because they thought she might have concealed an e-cigarette.

She told Sky News: “They just said take your clothes off – keep your knickers and bra on. They were searching in my toes, in my waistline, the waistband of my knickers – making me pull my bra up to see if anything dropped out.

Police custody log
Police custody log

“I was young. I didn’t want anyone to see my body at that age, especially strangers.”

Scarlett said she wasn’t offered the attendance of a responsible adult – which she is entitled to under the regulations governing police strip searches of minors, and although female officers conducted the search, she said there was a glass door that a male officer on the desk could see through.

Read more:
Drugged and sexually assaulted in a cell
Minister to raise Zayna Iman case
Women’s safety in GMP custody to be investigated

Scarlett said: “There’s nothing you can do. They’re the police. Who do you go to when the police are doing that to you?

“They know full well that they’re in charge – the way I see it, once you go through them custody doors, you know as soon as the van pulls in and those shutters go down, the tension – you can just feel it – it changes completely.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Allen said: “When in police care in custody, people can and should expect to be treated with care and dignity, and within approved guidelines.

“Unfortunately this report does not sound like these values were reflected in the young woman’s experience.

“I thank Sky News for bringing this concerning complaint to GMP’s attention.

“The young woman has not previously made the Professional Standards Branch aware of this issue and so we have made contact with her to ensure her complaint is formally recorded so it can be appropriately progressed.”

Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods said: “Greater Manchester Police welcomes the Independent Office for Police Conduct and Dame Vera Baird’s investigation of Miss Iman’s case and reviewing the force’s custody processes and procedures.

“It is really important that any answers now come from those appointed and entrusted to have independent oversight.

“Whilst GMP is fully supporting their investigation and review, the force will not be commenting publicly until their findings have been published and we have engaged directly with those affected.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Strip searching: What are your rights?

Stripped ‘without justification’

While police have the right to search for contraband items such as weapons or drugs, the three women we featured in our original report said they were stripped without justification – one of them completely naked and asked to spread her legs because, again, police were looking for a vape.

More worrying stories are emerging. Scarlett’s is one of several new cases Sky News is passing on to the inquiry.

Abuse victims’ charity, the Maggie Oliver Foundation, have told us they are taking five other women to meet the inquiry chair this week.

Ms Oliver, a former GMP whistle-blower, said: “We are happy that actual survivors are being heard in person, rather than filtered through an internal complaints procedure which is unfit for purpose.

“We would like to see this review widened from looking at just a few individual cases where these specific victims have been failed to look at the whole complaints system.

“We believe complaints must be taken out of GMP control and taken control of by truly independent outsiders whose aim isn’t to protect the organisation but rather to improve a broken system and restore public trust.”