Double 'brothel' swoop in Cheltenham leads to arrest
TWO suspected brothels were raided by police in affluent parts of Cheltenham yesterday.
Around 50 officers carried out simultaneous raids at flats in Pittville Lawn and Suffolk Road yesterday morning.
Hundreds of pounds in cash and other items were also seized from an address in Witcombe Place.
A 41-year-old woman, of Asian descent, was arrested in connection with the operation on suspicion of managing a brothel, human trafficking and money laundering.
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Two other women, both understood to be from South East Asia, were found at the properties and taken into custody as suspected victims of sex crime.
Police vans pulled up near the suspected vice dens in broad daylight, before teams of officers leapt out and carried out the strikes.
Rita Lester, who lives in Suffolk Road, said: "I have just got back from being away and the last thing I expected to see was a police raid next door.
"I would never have thought anything untoward was going on there. It's a nice house.
"We used to see a variety of people coming in and out but never thought anything of it."
Workman Dennis Copestake was busy carrying out repairs at the Suffolk Road property when a police unit arrived shortly after 11am.
"I thought it was the SAS," he said. "It certainly gave me a shock to see so many police but we just stood aside and let them get on with their job."
The double swoop was part of Operation Beesmore – a coordinated crackdown on the town's illegal sex trade.
As part of the action, the Metropolitan police raided four addresses in London, arresting a 40-year-old man for suspected links to sex crime.
Police hailed the operation as a success, claiming both raids had been executed quickly and with minimum fuss.
"We gained access to the properties quickly and safely which was our aim," said PC Richard Abbott, who took part in the swoops.
"It's important to preserve that element of surprise in this kind of situation so we can then go about gathering evidence as effectively as possible."
It is the biggest police operation against suspected vice crime in the town since Operation Pentameter II – a series of co-ordinated swoops in 2008 which resulted in 528 arrests across the UK.
It comes as an inquiry into prostitution and people trafficking in Cheltenham is being proposed by the borough council. The authority has passed a motion to take a wide-ranging look at all issues relating to the town's sex trade.
Officers taking part in yesterday's raids said they were the result of months of intelligence gathering.
DI Sue Bradshaw, of the Gloucestershire Public Protection Bureau, said it sent out a strong message to anyone involved in vice-related crime.
"Today's events show that whenever we get intelligence about this kind of activity, we will act upon it," she said.
"This is not victimless crime and many of the girls involved in it have very little choice about their movements."