A man and woman have been charged with drugging several women and keeping them as sex slaves for clients at two Brisbane residences.
- Women aged 17 to 24 were allegedly drugged, tattooed and held as sex slaves at two Brisbane properties
- Detective Inspector Juliet Hancock say the “horrendous” crimes are an example of modern-day slavery
- Police allege the women were secretly filmed having sex with clients
Police said35-year-old Matthew James Markcrow gave the women stupefying drugs, controlled their finances and work conditions and tattooed them as “being his property”.
Officer-in-charge of the Prostitution Enforcement Taskforce, Detective Inspector Juliet Hancock, 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.”
Mr Markcrow and Crystal Marie Sawyer, 23, were arrested on Thursday during a search of two properties, at South Brisbane and Mount Gravatt East.
Matthew Markcrow is accused of drugging women and keeping them as sex slaves(Facebook)
Four women, between the ages of 17 and 24, were found at the Mount Gravatt East home, but police believe there are more alleged victims.
Covert recordings of the sex acts were also found during the search, as well as drugs, and evidence to support sexual servitude and organised prostitution offences.
Detective Inspector Hancock said she found the tattooing especially reprehensible.
“What we also found out in the course of that investigation was they had been tattooed and marked as the property of the person who had actually recruited them,” she said.
Crystal Marie Sawyer is charged with knowingly carrying on the business of unlawful prostitution.(Facebook)
Detective Inspector Hancock said officers began investigating in October following a tip-off from the public.
“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,” she said.
“The women are now safe thanks to the information from members of the public and the diligence of our officers.
“We believe there are other victims who have been exploited by the man and I encourage them to come forward and contact police.”
Detective Inspector Juliet Hancock says the crimes are an example of modern-day slavery.(ABC News)
Women ‘heavily under the influence of drugs’
Detective Inspector Hancock said she spoke yesterday to one of the women found at the properties.
“It would be, I think, fair to say that some of them do not understand they have been exploited,” she said.
“A couple of them yesterday were definitely very heavily under the influence of drugs.
A house at Mount Gravatt East raided by police on Thursday.(ABC News: Dean Caton)
“I don’t think they understood yesterday when I was speaking to them.”
Detective Inspector Hancock said they were hoping to talk to clients who were secretly filmed.
“It is quite hard, I think, for clients to understand if someone’s being exploited. If there are any clients who want to come to speak to police, we’d encourage that,” Detective Inspector Hancock said.
Mr Markcrow,from Mount Gravatt East, has been charged with 10 offences, including conducting a business involving servitude, unlawful prostitution, drug possession, possessing tainted property, and recordings that breach the Privacy Act.
Ms Sawyer has been charged with knowingly carrying on the business of unlawful prostitution.
Brisbane man Matthew Markcrow is accused of tattooing women he held as sex slaves as “being his property”.(Facebook)
Police prosecutor Mark Hughes told the court Ms Sawyer admitted she was in a relationship with Mr Markcrow and had told police she was “like a mother” to the four women.
“She took care of them,” he said.
“She exercised a degree of control over the other girls.”
Police opposed Ms Sawyer’s bail on the basis that she would continue to operate the alleged prostitution business for Mr Markcrow and that she would interfere with witnesses.
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Mr Hughes told the court that while being arrested, Ms Sawyer told Mr Markcrow “I’ll take care of everything for you”.
Defence lawyer Lily Berkeley said the prosecution had brought charges on her client “somewhat prematurely”.
“The objection to bail fails to provide any concrete evidence she has been operating in this business,” she said.
“At this point in time, it’s not a strong case for them in respect to how they’ve charged her.”
Magistrate Stephen Courtney described Mr Markcrow’s offending as having a “particularly sinister flavour” but believed Ms Sawyer could be granted bail under strict conditions.
“More may well be revealed once the investigation is complete,” he said.
She was granted bail in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday afternoon.
Mr Markcrow appeared briefly in the Brisbane Magistrates Court and did not apply for bail.
The court heard he was on a return to prison warrant.
While appearing in the dock, Mr Markcrow blew a kiss to supporters sitting in the public gallery.
Both matters will return to court later this month.