Two held after human trafficking raids

TWO people were arrested in Suffolk yesterday as part of a national crackdown on sex trafficking.A 58-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman were detained in Ipswich as part of Operation Pentameter, a Home Office-funded campaign involving all 55 of the country's police forces, the immigration service and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

By Roddy Ashworth

TWO people were arrested in Suffolk yesterday as part of a national crackdown on sex trafficking.

A 58-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman were detained in Ipswich as part of Operation Pentameter, a Home Office-funded campaign involving all 55 of the country's police forces, the immigration service and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

Five women - three in Ipswich and two in Braintree - were found when yesterday morning's warrants were executed at Chevalier Street in Ipswich, Rayne Road in Braintree, and at an unknown address in Epping.


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They were last night said to be helping police and were also receiving support from other agencies.

Launched in February, Operation Pentameter has seen more than 350 brothels and massage parlours raided across the country, leading to the seizure of over £170,000 and the arrest of more than 150 people in connection with human trafficking-related offences. More than 40 victims of trafficking have been discovered, one of whom was just 15 years old.

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A spokesman for Suffolk police said the man and woman had been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. They were taken to Essex for further questioning yesterday afternoon.

Neither Suffolk nor Essex police were able to confirm whether or not the investigation was in connection with sex trafficking.

Last night, residents living near to the terraced Ipswich house at the centre of the investigation spoke of their shock at the arrests.

Adam Poulter, 19, who lives next door, said: “It's strange because we were only watching a film about human trafficking last night. We didn't think anything like that went on around here.

“There are people coming and going from the house all of the time. I've counted about 20 foreigners who use it.”

Mr Poulter watched from his house as officers entered the area yesterday morning.

He said: “I saw a police van at the back of the house. It wasn't marked but there were about six police officers in there.

“They weren't wearing uniform but they all had their ear pieces in and were talking to each other on the radio. It's hard to believe anything like that would happen on your doorstep.”

Paul Warren, 34, who also lives near to the house, watched as police questioned people in the area.

He said: “There was a crowd of about eight to 10 people standing around. There was a Chinese woman standing against a taxi and she was speaking to police. The police spoke to the taxi driver as well.

“I looked over because I could hear all the commotion. But there was no shouting or screaming.”

A taxi belonging to an Essex-based firm remained in the area last night, although a spokesman for the company was unable to confirm why it was in Ipswich.

A 61-year-old woman, who also lives near to the raided house, said the majority are now rented by foreign nationals.

She said: “There have been a lot of immigrants coming down here. There are so many people coming and going all of the time and you don't know who they are. I'm a pensioner but even if I was younger I think I'd feel the same.”

Operation Pentameter is a national operation looking at the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation. Under the banner of Operation Reflex, it is a multi-agency task force focusing on tackling organised illegal immigration, including trafficking.

The majority of victims are women and children originally from Eastern European countries including Lithuania, Romania, Estonia and Poland.

It is believed that they are often enticed to the UK under the guise of a respectable-sounding job in childcare or waitressing, only to discover upon arrival they are sold into sexual exploitation or other forms of slave labour and their passports are taken away from them.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, detective superintendent Julian Blazeby, senior investigating officer for Operation Pentameter in the eastern region, said: “The majority of trafficking victims travel into this country under false pretences and are forced into a life of vice against their will.

“Trafficking victims, including many children, frequently suffer horrific abuse and are trapped in very damaging, kidnap-style situations. Recovering and assisting these victims is always the most important aspect of operational activity.”

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