Madam ran £7.5m vice empire from wheelchair

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The Independent Online

Apart from the white Rolls-Royce kept parked on her drive, 64-year-old Josie Daly appeared to be a slightly dull character. The most exotic thing about the pensioner's seven-bedroom Victorian villa in north London was the name - Bunty's Corner, after one of her beloved pet dogs.

Apart from the white Rolls-Royce kept parked on her drive, 64-year-old Josie Daly appeared to be a slightly dull character. The most exotic thing about the pensioner's seven-bedroom Victorian villa in north London was the name - Bunty's Corner, after one of her beloved pet dogs.

But the image of the elderly animal-lover who lived an uneventful life with her daughter, Emila Tawaih, was shattered yesterday when she was revealed as one of the country's "premier" brothel keepers.

Three of her saunas, where 1,000 to 1,500 men visited each week for sex, made an estimated £7.5m in just two years. She advertised the "saunas" - two of the three establishments did not even contain a steam room - in publications including the British Transport Police magazine and 999 Magazine, which is aimed at workers in the emergency services.

Most of the prostitutes who worked 12-hour days in the north London saunas were illegal immigrants from Thailand and Eastern European countries such as Slovakia and Ukraine, as well as women who travelled to the capital from the West Midlands.

About 25 women, aged between 18 and 30, worked in each of the parlours, the Aqua Sauna, the Ishka Bath and the Lanacombe Sauna. A receptionist took £10 from every man at the door - this was the payment that went to Daly - and the prostitutes charged from £30 to £80, depending on what services were required. Many of the women used to stay in a house belonging to Daly in Coolhurst Road, until now considered a respectable part of Crouch End.

Daly, who admitted charges of controlling prostitution for gain between January 1996and December 1997, also owns two hotels and a fourth sauna in the area.

The police said she accumulated more than £3m in profits and property from her illegal activities. The £10 cash entry fees were dropped off twice daily at the madam's house in Hornsey, detectives claimed, and when police from Scotland Yard's clubs and vice unit raided the property they found about £104,000 in cash in her bedroom.

Appearing at Harrow Crown Court yesterday she was told she faced a "substantial financial penalty" as well as confiscation orders on her assets but would not be sent to jailbecause of her ill-health.

Judge Barrington Black said he was unable to decide on the level of the fine until arrangements had been made for the disposal of her assets.

Daly was given unconditional bail to reappear for sentencing in September.

Brendan Kelly, for the prosecution, said undercover police officers paid £10 to get into the "saunas" and were then given a menu. The officers were invited to choose from a selection of women and were offered sexual services up to the price of £50. "Once inside the clients would be offered a drink and given a towel - it was quite clear that the massage or the sauna was incidental," Mr Kelly said. He added that the officers would feign illness to get away.

Until her arrest in December 1998, Daly, who came to court in a wheelchair, controlled dozens of prostitutes working from the three brothels. But since the raid on her brothels, the court was told, the empire had collapsed.

Gilbert Gray, for the defence, said Daly had lost control of the parlours after falling into serious ill-health with a cardiac condition. He said she was unable to visit the premises as much as she would have liked to check they were being run correctly. He said: "She is in the depths of depression now. She is stunned beyond belief. She sits in that wheelchair utterly contrite but profoundly bewildered."

Outside the court, a vice officer said of the former brothel owner: "In the league table of madams she was in the premiership. She's a plausible raconteur and an extremely controlling and exploitative woman." He added that all the saunas were still operating.

The women from the Far East and Eastern Europe are part of a growing trade in foreign prostitutes, who pay criminal gangs to smuggle them into the country. The industry has grown rapidly and many British prostitutes are being undercut by the foreign women who work for lower wages and pay a share of their earnings to the brothel owners.

Vice squad officers rarely bother to take action against prostitutes working in saunas and massage parlours unless there are complaints from nearby residents. They are considered far too numerous and far less troublesome than street workers.

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