Marrickville is the place to be if you’re looking for luxury hotels, boutique shops, fine dining restaurants and an abundance of exclusive designer boutiques. It has been named Australia’s best suburb by CNN Go, one of Australia’s top 100 places to live according to BRW Magazine, as well as being ranked number 1 on Mastercard’s “Top 50 Places To Live” list.
It was also voted one of Australia’s most beautiful suburbs at this year’s VIVA Awards. And yet this affluent area hasn’t always attracted its fair share of attention when it comes to sex work; with only a few discreet brothels scattered around Sydney.
But that all changed recently when NSW Police raided Sydney’s largest private escort agency – known as ‘No.5’, which operated out of a large, two story townhouse located in Marrickville. They arrested three women who were running the business as well as several men who were working there too.
Police seized computers, phones, jewellery, documents and other evidence from the premises after obtaining a warrant following the arrest of a suspected client of the brothel last month. After searching through these items, police allegedly uncovered images of sexual abuse and exploitation involving up to 15 girls.
The raid came just weeks before another Sydney brothel was busted in nearby Chippendale where three people were arrested over alleged involvement in a prostitution ring that involved up to 40 females.
This latest news doesn’t come as much surprise to me though. I remember hearing about how things had gotten so bad for some of Sydney’s oldest brothels back in 2013. One such woman was Tracey Lee, who spoke to ABC News about her life as a secret prostitute in Sydney’s inner city areas. She told them, “I used to love my job. You meet really nice guys. You do have fun.” But then she said: “Now I’m scared. Now I am worried because they are getting younger and younger.”
Lee wasn’t alone. Another former worker at a brothel called Michelle said she saw a disturbing trend occurring among many of the women there. “They’ve got to look like 18 or 19, whereas their customers want them to be 14,” she said. “And the young ones are more vulnerable to pimps…they get taken advantage off.”
These shocking revelations didn’t stop there as it was later revealed that some of the women were even suffering sexually transmitted diseases while others were pregnant. So what exactly happened at the No.5 Marrickville brothel that prompted police to raid it?
- The Truth About Sydney’s No.5 Marrickville Brothel
In late 2012, an anonymous tipster contacted police claiming that a brothel was operating out of a home in the suburb of Marrickville. The woman claimed that she’d visited the house herself and had seen multiple young women engaging in sexual activities inside.
As it turns out, this tip turned out to be right on target. In February 2013, detectives executed search warrants at the property where they found a total of 12 women, aged between 21 and 30 years old. During the raids, officers reportedly discovered a small room containing beds, mattresses and sheets on each bed. Officers also found pornographic DVDs and magazines, condoms and lubricants, and money transfers receipts.
When asked about his role in the investigation, owner James McPartland told media outlets, “I was shocked. I never expected anything like this would happen here”. He added that he believed the women were making $300 per night.
However, it seems McPartland may not have been completely innocent himself. This week, police confirmed that he is currently facing charges relating to procuring for sexual activity after allegedly paying workers underaged girls. The exact age of those underage girls isn’t clear but it’s thought McPartland paid them to perform sexual acts. If convicted, McPartland could face up to 10 years imprisonment.
McPartland denied any wrongdoing during an interview with Channel Seven earlier this month. When asked whether he’d ever met any of the women working for him, he responded: “Absolutely, yeah. Most definitely.”
During McPartland’s bail hearing, Magistrate Michael Finn referred to the allegations made against him and said: “…it appears Mr McPartland has been quite deceptive in terms of his relationship with the women who have worked for him.” McPartland’s lawyer argued that his client should remain free until his next court appearance in June because he is a good character and poses no threat to the community.
At first glance, it might seem like the owners of No.5 Marrickville Brothel didn’t run into any trouble for their illegal operation simply because they weren’t caught red handed. However, the fact remains that they were breaking the law and putting the wellbeing of themselves and the women they exploited above everything else. A line had clearly been crossed somewhere along the way.
- Inside Sydney’s No.5 Marrickville Brothel (NSFW)
Since the raid, Sydney’s No.5 Marrickville Brothel has been closed indefinitely. According to the Daily Telegraph, the brothel will likely be reopened once the police investigation is completed. Some reports claim that the brothel is due to reopen within days, however, this is unconfirmed.
Due to the ongoing nature of this incident, it’s hard to know exactly what went wrong for Sydney’s No.5 Marrickville Brothel. What we do know, however, is that something did go wrong. We also know that someone tried to cover their tracks and hide what they were doing behind the facade of a respectable establishment. And finally, we know that it probably won’t take long for the public to find out what really went down behind the walls of No.5 Marrickville.