FOUR MEN have each been jailed for 17 years for a "despicable and inhuman" plot to abduct a school teacher from a minicab and rape her in a dark and lonely Bradford park.

And it can now be reported that one of the men, Wakar Akhtar, fled the country earlier this week part-way through the ten-day trial, driving to Dover and catching a ferry to Calais.

He had not attended court since giving evidence on Monday but the jury of six men and six women were told he was absent and ordered not to speculate about his whereabouts.

The vulnerable young woman, who lost consciousness after drinking with friends at a pub in Leeds, came round to find her arm forced behind her back and a stranger having sex with her on a bench.

On Friday, the jury at Bradford Crown Court convicted private hire driver Tamseel Virk, 42, of Marten Road, Canterbury, Bradford; uncle and nephew, Azad Raja, 38, and Akhtar, 21, both of Hudson Avenue, Canterbury, and Najeem Ul-Saeed, 31, of Beaumont Road, Girlington, Bradford, of conspiracy to rape the teacher in the early hours of May 26 this year.

Virk, Raja and Ul-Saeed stood in the dock with heads bowed and hands clasped in front of them as Judge Durham Hall QC said: "This was a callous, utterly despicable conspiracy to abduct this young woman from Leeds to Bradford for the purpose of using her as a sex commodity."

The respectable, intelligent and hard working teacher was treated as "a thing" rather than a person by the conspirators when her celebration evening turned into a complete nightmare, the judge said.

During the trial, prosecutor Andrew Kershaw said Virk picked up the drunk and confused young woman in Headingley, Leeds. She had been talking gibberish in the pub shortly before she left and forgot her handbag and phone.

She was badly affected by drink and caught on CCTV meandering about Leeds Railway Station for several hours.

"She has no recollection of leaving the party until she regained consciousness on a park bench, being held down, feeling as though her arm was breaking, and being raped," Judge Durham Hall said.

Virk had picked up her up on the street in breach of his private hire licence.

"You assessed her as a target for serious abuse. She did not ask to come to Bradford, you brought her here," he said.

In all, there were 15 phone calls among the conspirators as they rapidly put their plan rapidly into action.

Virk called Ul-Saed, who was working as a pizza chef in Pontefract. He brought in Akhtar to keep the young woman until he could get to Bradford to take part in the crime.

Akhtar recruited his Uncle Raja "to join in the fun and usage of this lady".

She was then raped in turn by Akhtar and Raja on a metal bench in Horton Park.

Judge Durham Hall said of the conspiracy: "This was truly despicable. It was utterly callous. It was a degree of inhuman behaviour that even someone such as myself, who is inured to evil, finds difficult to understand.

Praising the teacher as "strong, responsible and caring" he said: "This was a team act by you, four Asian men, abusing this victim."

He said the defendants had all blamed the woman for forcing them to do the acts she had alleged against them.

"It has been nothing short of incredible to listen to your excuses in this case," he told them.

Virk had portrayed himself the victim of "a rapacious drunk" but the judge found that he too had sexually abused her, in his cab on the way to Bradford.

The teacher, wearing a smart black suit, watched the sentencing proceedings from a live video link to the courtroom.

In a statement she read out herself after the guilty verdicts, she said she was receiving counselling and had to undergo an HIV test to see if she had contracted the disease.

She praised the support she had received from her school, the police and Rape Crisis.

"I won't let what has happened get the better of me," she said.

She told how her anger towards her abusers made her resolve to testify in court and bring them to justice.

Virk's barrister, Catherine Silverton, said the father of four had brought shame on his family.

Ul-Saeed's barrister, Charlotte Worsley, said he suffered from leukaemia and would find prison particularly challenging.

Elyas Patel, barrister for Akhtar, said he was a young man who took advantage of an opportunity that came to him.

Raja's barrister, Shirlie Duckworth, said he spoke little English and that would make life in jail very hard for him.

After the sentencing, Judge Durham Hall commended the police investigation team for its "considerable skill and attention to detail."

The court had been told how Wakar Akhtar fled to France within hours of giving evidence at his trial, the Telegraph & Argus can now report.

Bradford and Keighley magistrates were told earlier this week how Akhtar drove to Dover and caught a ferry to Calais.

Prosecutor Paul Ramsey said Akhtar had given evidence before Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC on Monday, November 17, but the defendant had not attended court since and the judge had issued a bench warrant the following day.

He said that evening police received information that Akhtar may have been trying to flee the country. His vehicle, a black BMW X5, registered LT53 ZZN, was missing from his address.

Mr Ramsey said the BMW left Bradford at 6.41pm on November 17 and arrived at the port of Dover at 10.52pm. The vehicle was said to have crossed the Channel and was back in Kent shortly after 6am the following morning.

The vehicle was stopped by police and two men were arrested for allegedly assisting an offender.

Akhtar had a small amount of luggage in the car and claimed he was going to meet his girlfriend and return to the UK in a day or so.

Mr Ramsey said tickets for the ferry were booked at 6.28pm on November 17 - 13 minutes before the BMW left Bradford.

He said Spanish identity documents relating to Akhtar's family were found in the car. He said the family originated from Pakistan but had Spanish nationality.

The prosecutor was outlining background during an initial hearing before magistrates of two relatives accused of assisting Akhtar to escape.

His father, Mohammed Akhtar Raja, 52, of Hudson Crescent, Great Horton, a father-of-seven and a self-employed market trader, and his cousin, Raja Sarwar, 40, a self-employed gas engineer, of Tern Street, Canterbury, Bradford, are jointly charged that, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, they conveyed Wakar Akhtar to France with intent to impede his apprehension or prosecution.

Both defendants indicated they will enter not guilty pleas at a future hearing.

Shahid Ali, solicitor for Raja, and Tariq Hussain, representing Sarwar, both applied for bail for their clients but the Bench remanded them both in custody.

Peter Walker, chairman of the Bench, said they would next appear at Bradford Crown Court on December 4.