Plea issued to Norfolk victims of human trafficking

A SENIOR Norfolk detective has urged victims of human trafficking to have the confidence to speak to the police about their ordeal so the perpetrators can be punished.

The plea has been issued by Detective Chief Inspector Rickie Botwright following the sentencing of a man at the centre of a human trafficking ring in Norfolk earlier this month.

Nerijus Lekecinskas, 34, of Meadowland Drive, Bradwell, was jailed for 11 years after being found guilty of controlling a person in prostitution for gain, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation and one count of rape.

It was described by Judge Alasdair Darroch as a “commercial enterprise of the most evil nature” involving a young Lithuanian woman who was trafficked to the UK in May last year and forced into a life of prostitution.

A second man, Skirmantas Kvedaras, 47, formerly of Issacs Road, Great Yarmouth, was jailed for six years after being found guilty of one count of rape.

The plight of the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, only came to light after she herself committed a criminal offence in a desperate bid to be listened to and believed.

Det Ch Insp Botwright, of the vulnerable people directorate, said: “When we got that verdict I called our victim and her care worker and she was absolutely over the moon.

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“The most important aspect for her, and she said it from the first time we met, was that we believed her.

“She went to police in Lithuania in small village police stations and the police said there was nothing they could do and she got the sense that no-one was going to believe her.

“When she came to the UK she had to commit a criminal offence to get herself noticed and heard.

“In her mind she had no means of escape. She didn’t know who was behind her at any given point, the only way out for her was to cause criminal damage to an address in Great Yarmouth.

“I took her initial statement and I said ‘It’s important you understand I believe you and we will do everything we can to punish these men’. It was about someone believing her story, listening to her and acting upon it and that’s what we did.”

The investigation, codenamed Operation Feed, was one of the biggest human trafficking operations the force had embarked upon and culminated in raids on eight homes across Yarmouth last October.

The two outstanding suspects are believed to be in Lithuania, which has been visited several times by Det Ch Insp Botwright and his team over the past few months.

Det Ch Insp Botwright, said: “I think we’ve been successful in identifying the main facilitator in Norfolk – that being Nerijus. I think he has links outside the UK and can’t rule out the possibility that there are still some individuals connected with him that we haven’t identified.”

The problem in trying to locate other suspects and possible victims is, in part, due to the “fear factor” or mistrust in the police.

But Det Ch Insp Botwright said the sentences handed out earlier this month “go some way in reassuring the victim as well as sending out a clear message to those involved in people trafficking.”

If you have information about human trafficking call police on 0845 456 4567.