Andy Anokye is the former member of grime crew Boy Better Know that no one wants to talk about.
Known publicly as the musician Solo 45, he lived the extravagant life many UK rappers dream of when he broke through with his single “Feed ‘Em To The Lions” in 2015. A climbing star among grime’s second wave, he joined BBK when they headlined Wireless Festival in 2016 and he racked up studio time with Stormzy, culminating in the two pairing up on 2017 single “5ive”.
From the outside, Anokye was a musical triumph – a major label star cruising off a hugely successful viral single. But behind closed doors, that same success was used to meet and groom young women, some of whom had been fans of his music. He waterboarded women, beating them and holding them against their will. One victim said Anokye put a gun to her head, then raped her. Another said he used her phone to hit her over her head, leaving her hair matted with blood. He filmed these women crying in pain.
On Thursday, Anokye was sentenced to 29 years in jail, having been found guilty of raping four women and holding them against their will. He was unanimously convicted of 30 charges: 21 rapes, five counts of false imprisonment, two counts of assault by penetration and two of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, all of which occurred over a two-year period.
Anokye, 33 – who appeared via video link from HMP Long Lartin – seemed to grin, perhaps smiling at someone off camera, as the sentence was given. He will serve 24 years in jail, minus the time already spent in prison awaiting sentencing, with the remaining five years spent on licence. The conditions also mean Anokye will be eligible for parole in 16 years, giving each individual rape charge little more than a nine month sentence.
The details of Anokye’s case are horrific and disturbing (tw: rape and abuse) and were covered extensively in Bristol Post court reporting from the trial. Consenting relationships with each of the four women very quickly turned abusive, as Anokye enacted an abhorrent reign of terror and control. He used a butterfly knife to cut his victims and in one case, it was said he held a bleach soaked cloth to a victim’s face. One woman said Anokye “spat on her multiple times” and threatened to “bury her” if she went to the police.
Anokye maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying the claims being made against him were “sus” and “crazy”. He said interactions between him and his victims were consensual, relying on what has colloquially become known as the “rough sex defence” – where men state that any violent injury, death or rape was a consensual sex game gone wrong. Anokye’s case is one of many instances of young men claiming their violence as innocent and consensual, when taken to trial.
British campaign group We Can’t Consent To This have conducted research into the number of women and girls who have been killed or injured in violence that is claimed to be consensual. They found at least 60 cases since 1972 where men who had killed women claimed it was a sex game gone wrong. The New Zealand man found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Milane in December 2018 employed this defence, claiming she died accidentally during sex after asking to be strangled.
We Can’t Consent To This say that the “rough sex defence” was successful in seven of the 17 killings of a woman that reached trial in the last five years, with the man either being found not guilty or receiving a manslaughter conviction. It’s a defence that can blur the lines of justice, helping men walk away from violent crimes with reduced or nonexistent sentences.
One example is Natalie Connolly’s killer John Broadhurst, who was initially charged with murder and grievous bodily harm with intent, but is only serving three years and eight months in prison after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) accepted his guilty plea to a lesser manslaughter charge.
Connolly, a 26-year-old mother of one, suffered 40 separate injuries from Broadhurst, including a fractured eye socket and serious internal bleeding. At the time, Broadhurst claimed he only hurt Connolly “within the boundaries of her masochistic desires” and that they were in the habit of having BDSM sex.
“It’s a compelling parallel between classic domestic violence murders and stuff that’s dressed up as a sex game gone wrong,” says Louise Perry of We Can’t Consent To This. “But we know that’s not what’s going on. It’s just male violence.”
Broadhurst’s defence is similar to Anokye’s, who said throughout the trial that “my sex is just weird”.
Anokye was arrested in 2017 after one of the four victims reported him to the police. Evidence was then found on Anokye’s phone that led police to the other three victims. During the trial, it was said Anokye had a tendency to film his sexual encounters – of which some were consensual and others were not.
“My sex is on the verge of rape. I fuck you when you don’t want to be fucked. That is technically rape,” said Anokye in video footage shown at the trial. In that same clip, one of the victims replied: “I don’t like it.”
It was alleged that Anokye derived sexual pleasure from having power over his victims, and police discovered searches on his internet history for “dacryphilia” – sexual arousal from another’s fear. Though Anokye had been in consensual sexual relationships with all four women in the trial, he continually violated their boundaries and their consent. One woman said she feared she would die.
In statements read out during sentencing, one woman had said Anokye’s actions had meant she was too unwell physically and emotionally to return to work, and she ended up in life-altering debt as a result.
Another said social situations were now impossible. “It has ruined my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be ok again. I’m left feeling lifeless, like I’m dead. I used to be the confident one in my social group, but now I feel silent and my confidence is totally gone.”
She said she fears for the day she sees Anokye again. “I can no longer see the future or make future plans. I am simply surviving now.”
A third said that Anokye took advantage of her. “I believed we were in love. I adapted to his behaviour until he took complete advantage. It became more sinister. He had turned into something else – a monster.” To this day she said she is triggered by cold water due to the abuse she suffered at the hands of Anokye, who waterboarded his victims. Daily showers or baths are torture for her.
The campaign of violence committed by Anokye is disturbing, but what’s unusual, compared to some more high profile cases such as Grace Milane and Natalie Connolly, is that all four of his victims survived. Perry believes there are countless more rough sex cases like Anokye’s that haven’t reached the court.
“We’ve heard loads of anecdotal cases of women who have reported these things – similar to Solo 45 – they go to police and it never makes it to court for various reasons. Because relying on this [rough sex] defence seems to stop the prosecution in its tracks – and we never hear about it, it’s never in the news.”
So why is the defence used?
“Some of it may be because juries have a lot of power in cases, which is how the jury system is designed because there’s public accountability – that’s the function of the jury – so there may be cases where the jury is more sympathetic toward the defendant. In other cases, it’s more to do with the Crown Prosecution Service not pursuing cases when they ought to or getting cold feet.”
“It’s complicated. There’s not one single change that can solve this problem once and for all.”
Some progress is happening. On 6th July, around three and a half weeks before Anokye’s sentencing, MPs voted for provisions against the “rough sex defence” to be included in the new Domestic Abuse Bill. The bill will now go to the House of Lords, where it will hopefully pass and rule out “consent for sexual gratification” to be used as a defence for causing serious harm to a person.
Whether it’s helping perpetrators justify their actions or receiving a lesser sentence in the court of law, Anokye’s case is the latest shocking example of how rough sex can be used as a legal guise to cover up systems of abuse. The rapper held a position of power over his victims due to his growing success and celebrity – things that he used for abhorrent personal gain.
“The force of his character and growing celebrity as a music artist – despite the ordeal each [victim] underwent – [and] the way he was able to dominate their otherwise strong personalities showed how dominant he was,” said Judge William Hart in the moments before sentencing. “You exerted so much control over them that they believed they were to blame for what they suffered.”
“You were part of a well known collective and fellow artists from that collective had achieved great success. None of those artists dedicated to their craft knew of your dark side. They were in no way tainted by your deeds which were carried out in a private way.”
“Your convictions have deprived you of your career. Those convictions are the fault of your own.”
Recent data from the CPS show most rape isn’t charged or prosecuted, making this case one exception. Avon and Somerset Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew – who is the National Police Chief’s Council lead for rape and serious sexual offences – said she hopes this case will “reassure the public and and give confidence to victims to report their experiences to police”.
Solo 45 will spend a minimum of 16 years in jail, by which point the rough sex defence will have been debated in the House of Lords and likely passed. But with such minimal sentencing per each crime, is it enough?