Nationwide trafficking raids orchestrated by Suffolk force

IPSWICH: Police are today investigating a suspected organised people trafficking cell after raiding what police believe is a brothel on the road on which serial killer Steve Wright lived.

The operation, targeting organised prostitution across the south of England and orchestrated from Ipswich, saw simultaneous raids by constabularies in Norfolk, Essex, Wiltshire and Devon.

Suffolk Police yesterday led the raid, as officers raided what they believed to be a working brothel in London Road, where three Eastern European women were discovered, believed to be involved in the sex trade.

Police descended on the London Road address at around 3pm accompanied by multi-agency representatives including by Pc Janet Humphrey, who was awarded for her work to stop prostitution in the town earlier this year following the Ipswich murders in 2006.

Detective Inspector Bernie Morgan and officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency led the operation, code-named Oakland, which, since February, has gathered intelligence on a criminal people trafficking cell operating from the town, with “significant links” with other parts of the country.

DI Morgan said: “By executing search warrants we intend to identify the victims who are forced or coerced into doing something against their will. They will be afforded the best care by a vulnerable persons team which accompanies us on every warrant of this kind.

“Any such premises will be closed down and the operation will continue identifying links with organised crime.”

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Since April, police have been given the power to arrest those who solicit sex at organised brothels, but no customers were found at the London Road address yesterday.

Janet Humphrey, who gave evidence as a police officer at the trial that convicted Steve Wright of the murders of five sex workers and is also a member of the Licensing and Sexual Exploitation Reduction (LASER) team, was one of the first people inside the two bedroom flat, situated in the same road on which Wright lived.

She said: “The three women inside the property were pretty calm and our aim is to try and ascertain the reasons they are here.

“This is not an ongoing problem in London Road. It just happens that on this occasion it has happened in this area.

“Off-street prostitution is all about money. It can be more difficult than street prostitution because it is behind closed doors and the women can often be subjected to assaults.

“No one wants to sell their bodies five or six times a day to different men. What happens to these women is grotesque.”

A neighbouring resident said he was stunned to see officers arrive outside his door. “It’s quite a shock,” he added. “It gets noisy along here now and again but you don’t expect to see so many police turn up.”