Undercover search for officials

PUBLISHED: 15:18 13 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010

CIVIC Centre officers have been on a surprise visit to a massage parlour, in a bid to discover if complaints that it is running an illicit sex trade were true.

CIVIC Centre officers have been on a surprise visit to a massage parlour, in a bid to discover if complaints that it is running an illicit sex trade were true.

Ipswich Council planning and enforcement staff visited Cleopatra's in Norwich Road, after its application to continue trading as a remedial therapy centre was greeted with an objection.

However, the investigators didn't spot anything amiss, and Cleopatra's today strenuously denied the allegation.

The approval looks set to be granted, despite the Egyptian-themed parlour's own website saying it offers: "Gorgeous girls of all ages and Anthony to their Cleopatra," and adds: "Always tell the lady you found her from the Harmless Games Directory."

The objector to the plan is Peter Marjoram of Trimley St Mary, who threatened to open a sex shop in Heath Road earlier this year, after residents objected to his plans for a pizza takeaway.

The premises will be the subject of a public hearing on August 21.

Mr Marjoram said: "All I want is for the council to be fair. This application is for a remedial therapy centre - but what is a remedial therapy centre?"

The council officer's report said Mr Marjoram's complaint about how his premises at Heath Road were handled, was irrelevant to the current application.

It added: "The applicants have been asked to comment on the suggestions made and have refuted them vigorously.

"If there is illicit activity then this will be a matter for the police to pursue.

"Inspection of the premises, which was carried out without prior notice, by planning and enforcement staff did not reveal any activity or indication of trade going beyond what is embodied in the application."

The council received one letter in support of the application, from Mr R Smith of Norwich Road.

Elaine Davis spokeswoman for Cleopatra's said today: "There is no case to answer.

"The man has never been into our premises, and is objecting on the grounds of a rumour. Our solicitors will be looking into his allegation.

"There have been no complaints about Cleopatra's from anybody whatsoever, in the nine years the business has been established."

She said Cleopatra's was featured on the Yorkshire TV programme "Massage Parlours of Britain" because of its Egyptian décor and ornaments, which are often rented out to schools and theatres.

No customers or staff were filmed.

She said: "We wanted to reflect how we are not like some other massage parlours.

"The trouble is that people see massage parlours on TV, with girls running around in leather and waving whips. They hear the word massage and think we'll be swinging from the chandeliers, but they come through the door and are quite disappointed.

"The term remedial therapy centre covers the wide range of massages we offer, but people just hear the word massage and their imagination gets carried away."

Mrs Davis said several of the 22 staff had worked there for years, and a supervisor was always at both the owners' 'immaculate' premises in Norwich Road, and Old Foundry Road.

She said: "No staff have ever been sacked for improper behaviour and if we ever found out that improper behaviour was going on there is no way Cleopatra's would tolerate it."

She said Cleopatra's raises money for local charities, treats disabled people, men and women and successfully campaigned for CCTV cameras outside the premises. It is advertised at Ipswich Hospital, GP surgeries, local radio and newspapers.

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