Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Maggie's search for missing prostitute

LEADING Irish journalist Maggie O'Kane told yesterday how she hopes her hard-hitting documentary on sex for sale will help to find an Irish prostitute missing in Britain.

The former war correspondent says she fears for the life of the Dublin heroin addict who she met while making the shocking Dispatches film which was broadcast last night on Channel 4.

O'Kane visited some of Britain's grimmest red light districts to investigate the world of street prostitution and to investigate any possible connections in the murder of 50 working women in the United Kingdom over the past four years.

She said: "I don't want to be falsely alarmist about this, but Lynne was a character we met in Sheffield. She started using heroin when she was 16 and she had come from an area of Dublin which had been flooded with the drug during the 1980s.

"She moved to Sheffield because there were warrants out for her arrest.

"We had started talking to her about what it was like on the streets and over the four months we kept going back to see her. Then last March she wasn't there and her place had been boarded up.

"Lynne has disappeared — she could be fine but we know at least 60 women like her have been murdered in the past few years.

"Her partner Alan, who was a shoplifter and had been with her for five years, hasn't heard from her since. Hopefully someone might see the documentary and know where she is."

O'Kane, who has just become a mother, said she was drawn to make the documentary because of the number of prostitutes murdered.

She said: "I got together with Lynne Ferguson and undertook a survey into attacks on prostitutes.

We took it to 18 cities and towns in Britain and interviewed 110 prostitutes.

"We found that 70 per cent had been badly beaten and battered and raped. We talked to women on the street most of whom are heroin addicts that are desperate for money."

The journalist said that she is still haunted by the story of one woman who had managed to escape a crazed attacker. "Anne Marie from Liverpool had been picked up by a man who had lined the inside of a van with black bin liners and had a noose.

"It still sends shivers up my back. She is still working the streets. She had been picked up by the man who forced her into the van and put the noose around her neck. He stabbed her and drove off.

"She managed to get her foot out of her sandal and get her toe under the floor. She fell out of the van on the main road beside the docks."

O'Kane says she is now on maternity leave but hopes that her documentary will help locate some of the missing women.

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Created: September 20, 2002
Last modified: September 21, 2002
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