Northern Ireland

Court hears student earned £2,000 a week at brothel

Two men are charged with trafficking women and running a brothel in Belfast
Image caption Two men are charged with trafficking women and running a brothel in Belfast

A medical student earned £2,000 a week as a prostitute in Belfast and used the money to fund her studies, the High Court heard on Tuesday.

The woman is a key witness in a case against two Scottish men who are charged with running a major vice ring in the city.

Malcom McNeill, 46, from Forest Avenue, Hamilton and Stephen Craig, 33, of Albert Road, Clydebank are charged with trafficking, controlling prostitution for gain, brothel keeping and converting criminal property.

Two women have also been charged in connection with an alleged racket following police raids in September.

The medical student from Belfast and another woman from Bolivia claim they were used as sex slaves by the gang.

Speaking at a bail hearing at the High Court defence counsel Joe Brolly refuted their claims and said the women appeared to be nothing more than two prostitutes working in one flat.

He added: "This case is replete with hyperbole, smoke and mirrors, and a lot of it is propagandistic nonsense."

The defence barrister said one of them, identified only as Witness A, was a medical student at a leading Scottish university.

He told the court she had been working part-time to fund her studies and was earning £2,000 a week.

Mr Brolly said: "She is about to complete that course. She lives in east Belfast and this vast trafficking operation takes her all the way from east Belfast to a flat in the centre of town where she plies her trade and then goes home at night.

"There were no henchmen and guards on the flat. There were two girls in the apartment.

"Their details were advertised widely on the internet and in (a national) newspaper, and they have a flourishing clientele."

The second woman, Witness B, is Bolivian woman who worked as a call-girl in London before coming to Belfast, the court heard.

'Fear'

Mr McNeill was denied bail by a judge who referred to his alleged major part in the suspected operation.

This followed opposition by a crown lawyer to Mr McNeill's release because of his alleged role in setting up and leasing at least three properties to be used as brothels.

Barry Valentine said: "These human trafficking victims have been put in fear and are in fear of the applicant and his associates."

Mr Brolly argued that Mr McNeill should be granted bail on the basis that other suspects have already been released, and because he posed no risk of interference with witnesses.

He said the father-of-four has already made admissions about coming to Belfast to sign rental agreements and allowing his bank account to be used for the properties.

It was claimed this was done at the request of Mr Craig because his own credit rating was so poor.

Mr McNeill was said to have known him from being in a Glasgow pipe band together and through a failed bar and restaurant venture.

"He (Mr McNeill) didn't know anything about what was going on in the flats. He had never been in the flats."

Police believe gang members suspected of trafficking women to work as prostitutes in Belfast amassed more than £2m in assets.

They allegedly spent £54,000 on newspaper advertisements for brothels in the city, and another £10,000 on the travel costs of bringing in women and transsexuals to work in them.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites