Chapter One – The Call (Catching a Criminal Series Two)

In February 2018, officers from
Derbyshire police found themselves 1,000 miles away on the streets of
rural Latvia. Alongside an elite group of Latvian State Police officers, they
executed warrants in the dead of night hunting for the ringleaders of a human
trafficking gang. It was the culmination of a massive operation stretching from the streets of Derby to the Baltic States, following a financial paper trail
that unearthed wealth, fast cars, mansions… and nearly 30 vulnerable people paying
for it all. It was the largest human trafficking operation ever carried out
in Derbyshire – one that proved how slavery and labour exploitation is very
much alive today. In this series we will show you how an organised criminal gang
were finally brought back to the UK to face justice, and how their criminal
empire came crashing down… thanks to one single phone call. That initial call about a man assaulting a woman on a street in Normanton led
police to a nearby house to try and safeguard the victim and track down the
attacker. But it quickly became apparent that there was more to the call than officers initially thought. The job came in as a domestic, but then there was, we
quickly realised that there was a little bit more in-depth investigation that needs to be done just because of the addresses that the local sergeant had been to. Our investigation led us to an address on Rutland
Street and while we’re in that address there were early signs that something
wasn’t quite right. We were faced with groups of Latvian males that were
that were living sort on top of each other if you like – three or four in a
bedroom, no bed in terms of quilt, just a pillow, no furniture there. We could sense
from that that something wasn’t right. Over the next few days the hunt for the
assault suspect led officers to a number of addresses where they found similar
cramped, dirty conditions filled with men and women with some clear vulnerabilities.
It was when the team went to an address in Balaclava Road – where the
conditions were much worse – that the true picture of what they were facing started
to become apparent. And we could see a pattern that was developing and the
conditions in this address were quite alarming. You’re talking about four or
five people in a bedroom, heating on full blast, a stench from inside the
address where they clearly hadn’t showered. They weren’t being looked after. They were clearly vulnerable and whilst in that address and the pattern that we’d
seen from the two previous addresses, I felt that something needed to be done
and we needed to take some action because these people clearly vulnerable
and being exploited to what level was unclear at that time, but the early stages
suggested that something wasn’t quite right. He wasn’t happy. It started to mention around slavery, people being held against their will, people just living in basically appalling conditions around there. Which when we
start to look at it from a senior leadership point of view is, it came across
as a being a domestic and that could quickly have just been just put to one
side. But I allocated that up to CID hub, Carl Chetwyn obviously got that and we
started to look a little bit more in depth and he just uncovered more
and more and more around people being moved about, going into workplaces, and
it’s quite obvious that it needed just some dedicated resources just to look at
it at an early stage. So it was just a case of let’s just have a look at it and
see what comes out, what falls out of the investigation. So it was very up in the air, a bit wishy-washy
at first, I’ll have to admit, around that. But this is uncharted territory for us. You know, we’ve had slavery
investigations and trafficking investigations previously but when you
start to look at it at that really local level and how detailed it can be you
know for me it’s just how complex is this going to be and have I got the
resources to do it. What started out as an investigation into a street assault had quickly transformed into a rapidly moving modern slavery and exploitation
probe. With alarming speed, more and more signs of
human trafficking became apparent, leading a team of detectives to one obvious conclusion – that a criminal group was trafficking vulnerable people into the UK, putting them out to work, and
keeping the money for themselves. And it was nestled in the heart of Derby.

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