Sold: Sex Slaves Next Door (2022) Movie Script

This programme contains scenes which
some viewers may find upsetting
It's in any town, any street,
any normal-looking house,
right under your nose and most
people are probably not aware.
Police! Police!
And then you'd go in and
then it's not normal at all.
Just a bed, semi-naked woman
in there.
Have you got clothes? Yeah.
Where are they?
Boxes of condoms
and some sex toys,
and that's all that's there.
In every corner of the country,
women and girls are being kept
as slaves and sold for sex.
And Romanian girls
are now big business.
They are brainwashed.
They are programmed.
I have a 13-year-old girl
right here,
who's desperately
trying to get back
to her 52-year-old lover boy.
I'm on a journey
through Romania,
to expose how this all begins.
We're actually police officers.
Where are you living?
You're not.
I know you're not living here.
With police in the UK
struggling to cope...
You just see
the worst of societies.
You see what people
can do to other people
without giving an absolute
damn about that person.
..I want to know
how this brutal trade
is being allowed to thrive.
The state of Romania
doesn't care
about the life
of children, yes.
We've had intelligence
it's being used as a brothel.
Numerous males coming and
going out of the address
throughout the day.
There are young girls
at the address
who are letting these males in.
And we believe it's
Romanian women.
This is an increasingly
familiar story.
Police have identified a house
they think has trafficked girls
inside, and they want
to get them out.
Due to their age, I've got
concerns that there may be
some exploitation,
they've been trafficked
to the country.
So we want to go in
as low key as possible
and start building that early
rapport with the girls.
At this stage, winning
the girls' trust is vital.
Ideally, we don't want
to just put the door in
and put the fear into
people straight away.
Police! Police! GIRL SCREAMS
I can hear... Police!
All right, guys. Police!
I say go in low-key
and they're screaming.
Have you got some clothes?
Where's your clothes,
more importantly?
So there's four
Romanian girls in there,
all basically
in their lingerie.
It's just being used
as a brothel.
Every week in
the West Midlands,
they search at least
one of these houses.
24 missed calls.
They've been
constantly going off.
Yeah, that'll be their punters.
What is, what have we got?
We've got a bit of crack.
A bit of crack?
And a bit of cannabis. OK.
When we come into the property
and you can see the drugs,
alcohol and the level of
desperation from the people
that are here,
it shows you what they're being
potentially subjected to.
The girls are
in their early 20s.
They don't speak English
and they're scared.
Police take them to a community
centre to talk to them.
You haven't got many
belongings, have you,
considering you've been
in the UK three years?
Who does she pay
the rent to, then?
That girl is back in Romania.
Do you know her name?
The main reason to do that
is to tease information out,
to try and see whether
they have, A, been trafficked,
B, are they under any control
while they're
at the address now?
The stories are similar,
but they're not.
They are all saying
they pay different money.
They're all saying
they pay different people.
So it does raise concerns to me
that someone is potentially
in control of that address.
But the girls
give very little away.
They say they're
here voluntarily,
though the youngest
seems to want to help.
She is listening intently
when I'm describing
some of the circumstances that
girls find themselves in.
She's got my number,
she might call.
I'm just trying to think
moving forward then,
is it worth us doing
another visit there?
Or... She's not a child. Yeah.
She's an adult. Yeah.
We can't force her to
come out, unfortunately,
even if we know, we suspect,
something's not right.
Yes, OK.
All we want to do
is help these people.
But, like I say, we can only
act upon what we're being told.
Because sex work
is legal in the UK,
Brian and his team
now have no choice
but to send the girls
back to the house.
Of all the suspected victims
of sex trafficking in the UK
last year, more came from
Romania than anywhere else...
..and so I've come here to
find out why so many girls
are being trafficked
and why they're so
reluctant to accept help.
OK, you come in and
then we release the dogs.
Hi. Hello.
You need to have a seat because
otherwise they will attack you,
Iana Matei runs
the only shelter in Romania
for children who've been
trafficked for sex.
Hi. Hello. Hello.
Along with help
from her son, Stefan.
You are a great help,
and I appreciate that.
Is he a good son?
Yes. The best, honestly.
Now you stay here cos I work.
Watch me.
A new girl is brought in.
She's 16.
She has been trafficked
and they pushed her
from the first floor,
so she doesn't have the teeth
and her leg is broken.
She fall into a garbage bin,
so she's lucky to be alive.
All the girls here have been
lured into the sex trade
as children,
by traffickers pretending
to be in love with them.
This tactic is called
the lover boy.
The lover boy method is
the most horrible method
of recruiting girls.
There are recruiters
in the schoolyards.
They are planted in the school
and they talk to the girls.
This guy comes and tells
them, "I love you so much.
"You are so beautiful.
You are so smart.
"I want to marry you."
They want to believe it.
It's easy to believe.
Daniella is the youngest
girl in the shelter.
I have a 13-year-old girl
right here,
who's desperately
trying to get back
to her 52-year-old lover boy.
When she runs away,
she tells the police,
"I want to go to my lover boy,
he's 52 years old.
"I love him."
This is one of them
that she's in love with.
That's a photo of her
with her trafficker?
She calls him Iubi.
Iubire means love.
Everyone talks about
trafficking as being
a consequence of poverty.
Bull. It's not.
It's of unloved children.
If he tells them, "I love you,"
and the second day,
he will beat them up
to go and work on
the street, so what?
They've been beaten up
so many times.
They've been put down
by other people.
Whatever you want,
they've been through all.
But, "I love you,"
they never heard.
The girls here are not unusual.
Last year, there were hundreds
of victims of sex trafficking
in Romania.
Half of them were children.
They are getting
younger and younger.
The younger the girl,
the easier it is for
the trafficker to scare her.
They don't need to
beat them up,
they don't need to work hard.
Now we have girls as young
as 12 when they get to us.
They started at ten.
Is that what you're seeing,
girls trafficked
at ten years old?
Yeah, we had a few cases.
If they are on the streets
since they are 13,
when they are 18
and they come to the UK,
this is the only
life they know.
This is the only thing
they will do.
Iana's son, Stef,
is taking me to see
where the trafficked girls
are pimped out.
Here's another girl,
right in the front here.
So they get groomed here
at very young ages
and years of constant
abuse and manipulation.
These guys are smart.
They work in a team.
It's too easy for them.
I mean, I was hearing
a trafficker talk,
and he's like,
"Man, stuff drugs.
"Drugs are so hard.
You need capital.
"You need infrastructure.
"With girls, all you need
is a big mouth.
"You tell them a few things
and these dumb girls, you know,
"they fall right into your bag
"and you can make tonnes
of money off them."
So that's a pimp's explanation.
It's easy - easy money.
After years of being trafficked
in Romania, the girls are often
brought here, where there's
more money to be made.
Elena was left for dead
by her traffickers.
She was discovered in
a flat in the West Midlands
and taken to hospital.
She's been moved now
to a safe house.
I've never seen anyone
in that state before.
She was repeatedly beaten.
She'd been malnourished.
She had burns. She had
lots of wounds on her body.
One of the consultants
in there had estimated that
she'd only had
48 hours to live.
I'm meeting Elena
a few months after her escape,
and I can see how
traumatised she is.
She was trafficked to the UK
by a man she thought she loved,
forced to leave her
one-year-old son behind.
As soon as she arrived here,
she was locked in a flat.
How many men used
to come each day?
Elena was forced to
advertise herself online.
So you had to put an advert
of yourself on this website
for men to come
and sleep with you?
This is the website
Elena was advertised on.
It's legal and one of
the most common sites used
by sex workers.
But a number of
recent convictions
show traffickers have used it
to sell their victims.
Viva Street says it cooperates
with police investigations
and has measures in place
to detect criminal behaviour,
which they continually
review and update.
But by advertising online,
the girls can be
kept off the streets,
hidden in houses,
making them harder to find.
Age is 21 years old.
It's advertised on
Viva Street, right.
Romanian female, isn't it?
Detective Colin Ward
is scouring the websites,
looking for signs the girls
have been trafficked.
There's at least
two or three different females
using the same number.
This is the surest sign.
It tends to indicate
someone else is controlling
that telephone number.
Someone else is controlling
those sex workers.
Because of the change to online
and because of the change from,
say, massage parlours, where we
might have had traffic victims
working in the past,
the houses, it's just a normal
house on a normal street.
It's a normal flat in
a normal apartment block.
People will have neighbours who
are victims of sex trafficking.
It's got harder for us
because it could be anywhere.
We don't know where to go to.
We don't know where
to go and visit.
And so Colin is trying
a new but controversial tactic.
Once he spots
a possible victim,
he tries to arrange a meeting
by posing as a client.
Make sure I've got
the right phone
and not send it from
my own personal phone.
That's a good start.
I'm just saying,
"Are you free?"
And then I'll get
an address back, hopefully.
So at this stage,
she doesn't know that
you're a police officer?
No, and that's always up for
debate over what we're doing.
You know, are we pretending
to be someone else?
Not at the moment, no. Cos I'm
just saying, "Are you free?"
As soon as we go
to that premises,
as soon as she opens the door,
I identify as a police officer.
Go, do a left.
Sex trafficking
is rife in the UK.
I don't think we've got
anywhere near the true picture
of how many victims
there are there.
It must be miles bigger
than what we know already.
Hi, are you OK?
We're actually police officers.
Yeah, it's OK. It's OK.
Don't worry. Don't be scared.
No need to worry.
Colin finds a woman
alone in the flat...
Where are you living?
You're not?
..with just a mattress
and a bag of condoms.
You're not living here.
There's no clothes, there's
no food, there's no nothing.
Yeah, so don't think
we're stupid, OK?
There's 1,000
there in clients,
but you've not got
a penny on you.
It makes me think that
you're not keeping the money.
But just like in Birmingham,
the girl refuses
to accept help.
For now, it's another
failed attempt.
What I'm worried about is
I know you're not
telling us the truth
and I understand that.
If there is anything going on,
where you're not safe,
you need to let us know.
Oh, wait a minute. Bloody hell.
Probably a few minutes
after we left the house,
I had a text message from
the lady just saying, "Thanks,"
which is really unusual.
I've probably
never had that before
when we've done
this sort of work.
Romanian women in general,
there's very little
trust of the police.
The experience they've probably
had with their police
in their own country
can be really, really poor.
I've been doing this
for 14 years now.
I can count on one hand
how many victims have gone,
"I'm a victim, I need help."
It just doesn't happen.
During my time in Romania,
I found that children are
being groomed by traffickers
from the age of ten,
which explains why
many of them don't realise
they've been exploited.
But I want to understand more
about their deep distrust
of police and authorities,
where this comes from.
Then I hear
an unbelievable story
that might help explain things.
When I arrive
to meet this family,
they're celebrating.
Their oldest daughter, Andrea,
has just been brought home
after being trafficked
three years ago.
Andrea is distant.
She's still adjusting
to being back.
But after a while, she starts
playing me her favourite music
and tells me what happened.
This is where the story takes
an unexpected turn.
Andrea's parents say they knew
who'd taken her,
but the police
wouldn't help them.
Eventually, Marioara decided
to rescue her daughter herself.
She contacted the trafficker
and arranged to meet him by
setting up a fake drug deal.
Why do you think police
didn't search for her?
The local police force
have told us
they did look for Andrea,
and they referred her case
to a specialist
anti-trafficking team.
But I keep hearing
the same story -
that when children here
are trafficked,
police often turn a blind eye.
And I want to know
from police themselves
why this is happening.
So I've come to meet
Cosmin Andreica,
the head of Romania's
policing union.
Why have you decided
to speak out?
Every year we have more and
more girls who are trafficked.
The system is more than broken.
The system is overwhelmed.
Is it a case that
these officers don't realise
the girls have been trafficked?
They don't see it as a problem?
We have more than 100 cases
of disappearance in a county
and we only have one to five
police officers who investigate
this kind of disappearance.
It's inefficient
to investigate.
It's impossible.
It's impossible. Yes, in fact.
But not only this,
Cosmin tells me
the traffickers,
by luring the girls with
the lover boy method,
are exploiting
a loophole in the law.
When a child leaves
police here cannot
treat it as a crime.
The prosecutor ask him,
"Do we have some real proof
that she was kidnapped?"
"OK, then maybe she left
because she got in love
"with some guy.
"Or maybe she left because
she wanted a better future."
But then came a case
that was impossible to ignore
and sent shock waves
through the country.
This 15-year-old girl was
murdered in a tiny rural town,
Caracal, which is renowned
for trafficking.
Maria is the journalist
who covered the case.
When a girl disappears
in Caracal,
it's not such fuss
because usually girls,
young girls, disappear here.
So when Alexandra Macesanu
was kidnapped
on her way home from school,
her parents received
a familiar response.
She was locked in a room.
She managed to grab
a phone left in the room
and to do a 911 call.
This is a recording of the call
she made to the police.
Alexandra made
three calls to 911.
She was repeatedly asking,
"Will you come here?
"Will you send somebody
to save me?"
And they were mocking her
because she didn't know
where she is detained.
Her last words were,
"Please, please come."
Police didn't trace
Alexandra's phone calls.
It would be 16 hours before
they arrived at the house
she was being held.
But they didn't enter.
They waited outside for
ten hours because they said,
"We have no permission
from a judge to enter."
By the time they went inside,
they found a barrel of ashes.
Her kidnapper said he'd
killed her and burnt her body.
He also admitted killing
another missing teenager,
Luiza Melencu, who disappeared
three months earlier.
These events have triggered
an outpouring of grief
and outrage across Romania.
Here is the candles
that people are bringing
from all over the country.
It's... I think it's
a collective trauma,
what happened here.
Why are people
coming from so far?
To light the candle just
to put light in a dark,
a very dark place and to
make the authorities see
that we care about what
happened and we expect,
I don't know,
something to change.
The policemen in Romania,
they usually don't
pay much attention
when a girl is missing
because they think it's
about human trafficking,
and the investigation
ends here.
How do you feel about
the way the police
have handled your case?
As I spend time with
Alexandra's mother,
I realise something
truly heartbreaking.
They believe their
daughter is alive.
Because of the police
Because of the police, yes.
That was...
It was just really sad
to meet them, really sad.
Because police investigate
cases so poorly...
..they won't believe
their daughter's dead.
They think that it's
a more plausible explanation...
..that she's been trafficked.
The state of Romania
doesn't care about the lives
of their people.
Doesn't care about
the lives of the children.
Doesn't care about
the life of children, yes.
This is the conclusion.
We've been to Romania
to try and understand
what is going on.
We found that these children
are beginning their trafficked
journey from the age of ten.
Does that surprise you?
It doesn't surprise me
at all, no. No.
These are the girls
that then end up in the UK,
in the houses that you find.
So Romania's failings
are becoming your problem.
But it's also
the fault of us, you know,
I think in this,
in this country
in as far as us not
identifying the victims
as much as we want to,
not getting those convictions
that we need to be getting
against traffickers.
Cheers, bye.
We're not getting
enough cases to court,
anywhere near shape or form.
Anybody else here? Just you?
Go in, go inside.
We just want to make
sure you're OK.
So I need to
speak to this chap,
so if you just go back
downstairs. Where are you from?
It's been so easy for so long.
You know, for when a victim
will say, "I'm not a victim,"
for, you know, police to go,
"OK, you're not a victim.
"We've got nowhere
to go with this."
We need to get out there
that people are not going
to come forward, so we do
need to still investigate
these crimes.
Some forces,
like Greater Manchester,
are now trying to build cases
without testimony
from those who've
been exploited.
But this requires
time, skill and money.
Three months on from
their visit to this house
in Birmingham and police
have come back to check up
on the four girls they
think are being exploited.
It doesn't look occupied.
Looks like they've left.
We did a warrant there,
we raided it.
The neighbour said that
the occupants moved out
two weeks ago.
They're very pleased that
they no longer live here.
That's what
the neighbour's saying.
All right.
Thank you. Take care.
Police just have no idea
where the girls are now,
and this is what keeps
happening, they tell us.
The women get moved through
different houses so quickly
that it's impossible
to keep up.
Politicians are
aware of the problem,
but still it continues to grow.
I'm going to meet the head
of the Parliamentary Group
on Sexual Exploitation,
MP Diana Johnson,
who's pushing
the Government to act.
We have trafficking
into this country
on an industrial scale.
Women being trafficked in
for the sex industry
and we are failing
to address it.
Although we've got
the Modern Slavery Act
and we've got legislation
about trafficking,
the number of prosecutions
are tiny.
Over the last three years,
nearly 6,000 victims
of sex trafficking
have come forward.
But in this time, there have
been just 95 prosecutions.
Despite all the warnings,
the Government
has failed to act,
and that's shameful.
The UK Government says it's
working here and with
authorities in Romania
to ensure those responsible
are brought to justice,
using what it says are
some of the most stringent
human-trafficking laws
in the world.
We could easily rescue someone
every day in
Greater Manchester.
But we need that intelligence
coming in to us.
OK, so it's not going to be
you left here at this house?
Dealing with trafficking
and dealing with this sort of
crime, it will have affected
me. I've no doubt at all.
Because you just see the worst
in society, you see what people
can do to other people
without giving an absolute damn
about that person.
These are letters for Santa.
Ripped jeans.
Oh... Diapers for the baby.
And lots of kisses.
I remember one girl was saying,
"I want a family to love me.
"I want to have a house...
"..and a family."
These were the things
that I couldn't -
Santa couldn't give them.
A few days ago, Daniella
tried to run away
from the shelter again.
What's happened to
her trafficker?
Nothing happened to the
trafficker. I mean, the mother
went and filed a complaint...
Where is he?
He's at home, doing fine.
It's not a case against him
because she doesn't say
that she was forced, she was
whatever - she loves him.
Yes, in my opinion,
he should be charged and
He is 52 and she's 12.
Bringing traffickers to justice
has always been
a problem in Romania.
Convictions are rare
and punishments are lax.
Last year, dozens of convicted
traffickers avoided prison.
They were given suspended
sentences instead.
What needs to change here?
it's an organised crime.
As it is now, the income
is high, the risk is low.
But if you reverse the equation
and you put them in jail
for a long time,
and confiscate everything
they have, then it's not
going to be that easy
to do trafficking.
I think that
they will think twice.
Why do you have
bigger sentences
for trafficking drugs?
The message you send out
there is, you can sell a few
children from
the poor countries,
you make a lot of money
and you don't go to jail.
It's been two years since
I began this journey,
and I'm realising that
nothing ends well.
I'm going to meet Elena,
the girl who was rescued
from the house in the UK.
I know that,
after some hesitation,
she's agreed to give
evidence to the police.
Hi! How are you?
I'm good. You look great. Yes.
I know you've had
your tattoo changed
from where he branded
you before.
Why did you choose a feather?
But Elena has some
disappointing news.
West Midlands Police
have dropped her case
and her trafficker has
fled back to Romania.
Do you think you can
go back to Romania?
Elena is one of the only girls
I've ever heard of who's agreed
to give evidence to the police.
I know how hard it was for
her to give that evidence.
It shows that even when
the girls speak out,
which is so rare,
it's not necessarily enough
to get their cases to court.
I also want to
know about Andrea,
the teenager in Romania
rescued by her parents
from the boot of
her trafficker's car.
Her dad's now working here in
London. He's just called me and
asked if I'll come and meet
him, because he says that he's
got something to tell me.
Hi. Oh...
How are you? I'm OK.
How are you? I'm fine.
How is your daughter?
It must be so hard,
after two years,
to have this happen again.
So the minute you left,
they came for her.
Are you worried they might try
to traffic her
to another country?
Since the murders in Caracal,
the Romanian Government
says it has made efforts
to tackle trafficking.
There are now more specialist
officers and tougher sentences
for trafficking children.
But on the ground,
very little has changed.
I feel angry because I hear
these stories for 20 years,
and we should have
stopped this by now.
The only conclusion
is that we didn't have
the will to stop it.
The bottom line is
that we don't care.
Some days you do walk away
and it does play on your mind
when you go home and think,
"Could I have done something
"different? Could I have said
something else to them?
"Could I have helped
them another way?"
Do you feel like you're
fighting a losing battle?
I think we're fighting
a big battle.
It's going to take
a lot of fighting.
I think if we thought we were
fighting a losing battle,
it'd be time to give up.
She looks so like your wife,
doesn't she, in that photo?
They look so similar. Yeah.
Wow. Yeah, she's grown up.