The life of an Ilford prostitute: Drugs, murder and kerb crawlers


Sonia - Credit: Archant

At 15 years old Sonia was sent to work on the streets as a prostitute by her mum to fund her crack and heroin addiction.

She was so terrified that the first time she picked up a punter she burst into tears and he had to take her home.

Having worked in a town where five of her fellow prostitutes were murdered, the 32-year-old continues to work on the streets, sometimes on the same beat as her mum.

She is just one of the tens of girls working in Ilford’s red light district down Ilford Lane and was pulled over by police last week after being spotted getting into a car.

“I don’t want to be out here,” she said. “My mum sent me out for drugs money and to pay the rent. It was horrible. It is horrible.

“I’m now on a script [prescribed methadone] but my mum still sends me out.”

Police from Loxford Safer Neighbourhood Team were out on Wednesday and Thursday night as part of Operation Clear Light which targets kerb crawlers.

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Sonia said she works most nights and most of the men who buy her are married, Asian and aged between 20 and 60 years old.

Sonia – not her real name - said: “I don’t really care about them. I think they’re disgusting cheating on their wives.”

She had her only daughter adopted when she was seven years old and is trying to get clean in case she comes looking for her after she turned 16 earlier this year.

Despite having worked on the game for almost half her life, Sonia said she only felt scared when there was a serial murderer on the loose in Ipswich where she lived and worked.

In 2006 the bodies of five murdered women who had all worked as prostitutes were discovered and Steven Wright was later imprisoned.

“There was only one of them that I didn’t know. They used to be my friends. One day seeing them on TV and the next day they were dead,” she added. “I was just glad that I wasn’t one of them.”