TEENAGE girls were sexually abused in a Bournemouth hotel by members of a gang who targeted their victims in the Lower Gardens.

The abuse of the girls was discovered after a vigilant member of staff at the hotel reported concerns to police.

Officers later discovered the victims had been photographed by their abusers.

Speaking at a meeting of Hotel Watch on Tuesday, Detective Sergeant Paul Chessell (pictured above) urged hoteliers to stay vigilant for signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

"There were rumours of gangs operating within the gardens and targeting young girls, getting [them] drunk and high and then taking them across to hotels, where we believed sexual acts were taking place," he said.

"They were picking [victims] up, taking them to hotels and photographing them having sex."

Police were then contacted by a member of staff at an unnamed hotel. Officers searched through CCTV footage to find images of some of the girls taken to the hotel.

While most were then identified, police were unable to find out who one of the youngsters was.

"We didn't know her, and we were really concerned," DS Chessell said.

"We couldn't find out who this one girl was."

Police then spoke to two dedicated CSE social workers.

"They walk down to the gardens and speak to children - crucially, children speak to them," he said.

"We asked them to look out for this girl, and they found her. She was 15 and at high risk of CSE."

DS Chessell said the girls had been in a "really horrific place". The 15-year-old, who didn't want to be interviewed formally by police, disclosed there had been "alcohol and photographs taken" in the hotel.

The information formed the basis of 'Op Corona', which eventually drew in 30 officers, teams from social care and forensic specialists.

Computer analysts were on stand-by during the operation to fast-track the examination of devices.

Officers also began making arrests. In total, nine people were held as part of the investigation. Three people alleged to be connected to the operation have already appeared before the courts.

"Organised gangs are working within the gardens and in the hotels," the officer said.

"Our aim will always be to disrupt and dismantle organised CSE gangs."

He urged members of staff at Bournemouth hotels to "be suspicious".

"Please keep your eyes and ears open," he said.

"If you see something you don't like or that you're not sure of, please, please tell us.

"Be suspicious. Ask questions."