Last week, Queensland police discovered an alleged prostitution ring in Mount Gravatt East, Brisbane, with women as young as 17 allegedly kept as sex slaves.
Four women were found following a search of a property at Mount Gravatt East in Brisbane, per ABC News, but police said there may be more alleged victims.
Matthew James Markcrow, 35, and Crystal Marie Sawyer, 23, appeared in Brisbane magistrates court on February 5 following a four-month investigation into the alleged prostitution ring.
Markcrow faces 10 charges, including conducting a business involving servitude, conducting unlawful prostitution, possessing drugs and tainted property, and breaching privacy. There were also allegedly drugs and secret recordings of sex acts found on the property, plus other evidence which police allege relates to the sexual servitude and organised prostitution offences.
Sawyer, who was alleged to have been in a relationship with Markcrow, has been charged with knowingly carrying on the business of unlawful prostitution.
According to police, at least four of the alleged victims had “Property of Matt M” tattooed on their bodies.
Detective Inspector Juliet Hancock, of the Prostitution Enforcement Taskforce, said the crimes were an example of modern-day slavery.
“We’ve been shocked by this, we didn’t think this was happening in Australia, let alone Brisbane,” she said. “It’s something that you see that’s happening overseas… it’s quite hard to shock police. This is quite horrendous offending.”
“This investigation has been confronting when you consider those aspects, vulnerable young women being recruited, being drugged, being prostituted and being tattooed, that’s pretty confronting.”
Police allege the women were given stupefying drugs, as well as placed in controlled living, financial and work conditions.
“The allegations against Markcrow have a particularly sinister flavour and perhaps more will be revealed as the investigation is completed,” the magistrate said.
Officers say the women are now safe, and have encouraged any other victims to come forward.
“The women are now safe thanks to the information from members of the public and the diligence of our officers,” Hancock said in a statement. “Police are working with community service providers to offer the victims any care and support they may seek.”
Sawyer has been granted bail despite police claiming she “exerted control” over the women and concerns she may run the business in Markcrow’s absence.
“I am satisfied that risk can be significantly mitigated,” said the magistrate, ordering Sawyer not to contact any witnesses involved in the police case and return to court for mention on February 24.
Markcrow was remanded in custody and is scheduled to return to court on 24 February.