Brothel run by ‘criminal gang’ closes down after pressure from neighbours and council
- Credit: Archant
A brothel running in a residential street in Canning Town has closed after months of complaints from neighbours.
Since February the occupants of a house in Chester Road, yards away from Eastlea Community School, were running the business with up to five sex workers present at a time.
Despite having known about it since a serious assault took place there on March 30, police had not managed to shut it down.
Daniel Chowdhury, the director of All Seasons Lettings Agents in Manor Park, which managed the property on behalf of a landlord, told the Recorder his company had been trying to evict the occupants since June.
He said: "Frustratingly we are governed by strict laws pertaining to how we evict a tenant.
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"This has happened countless times and in a situation like this, we have to use a breach of tenancy notice [to get them out]; that's discretionary and can run into the tens of thousands in court.
"If a property is being sublet to criminal gangs, we should be able to take it back. We need more powers so we can potentially rip up their contract."
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The two-storey house was let to a family that had passed all of the company's credit and background checks.
Mr Chowdhury said he later realised the family were being used as a "front" and on arrival, had almost immediately sublet it to a gang.
Neighbours in Chester Road, who were all too afraid to be named, told the Recorder of the "nightmare" they had been living since February.
Up to 35 people were visiting the red-lit premises on a given night and the group running the brothel even had even organised transportation for punters.
Cards advertising "massage" services were scattered around Canning Town and Plaistow Stations.
On answering the phone on Friday, June 28, a woman confirmed the address and said the rates were between £40 for 15 minutes and £100 for one hour.
One neighbour said: "Normally men arrive every half hour and sometimes all come as a swarm, with five or six people at once. We feel we are under siege."
Another said: "They have been coming in 24/7, seven days a week. One guy had come from Chingford, another from Peckham.
"It's horrible. I've had a guy urinate on my wall and found drugs in my dustbin, and been disturbed by men speaking and smashing bottles.
"It's made me physically sick to know we have been living in a neighbourhood where parents are afraid for their children."
Newham Council was made aware of the issue by residents and on May 28 issued a formal stop notice, a spokeswoman said, "to force owners to bring an end to the use of the address as a brothel."
Since April 2014 the local authority has used planning enforcement powers to shut down 151 illegal brothels in the borough.
Residents also wrote to the governors of Eastlea Community School, saying they did not feel safe letting their children play outside.
Headteacher Stephen Gillatt said the school was aware of the allegations and working with police and the council.
He said: "We have introduced additional safety measures which include increased patrols in targeted areas around the school by senior staff before and after school.
"We take student welfare extremely seriously and can assure families all necessary steps have been taken to ensure their child's safety."
Over the past week the occupants have been seen packing furniture into cars and a set of keys was dropped back through All Seasons' letter box in early July.
A police spokesman confirmed officers had attended the address on March 30 to reports a man in his 30s had been assaulted.
"The man alleged he was attacked after opening the door to two males. He was taken to hospital for treatment before being discharged," he said.
"An investigation was carried out but has now concluded."
He added that police had issued an enforcement notice on the premises and "followed up with regular patrols in the area" but taken no further action.
He said: "It is understood that the occupants have vacated the property. However, anyone with concerns is asked to contact their local safer neighbourhoods team on 101."