Trafficking and prostitution accused ran ‘Deliveroo of sexual services’
A man allegedly ran the “Deliveroo of sexual services” by transporting vulnerable women to meetings across Northern Ireland, the High Court has heard.
Prosecutors claimed six victims have now emerged in a case which involved them being advertised online for unprotected, risky sex.
Some of them were homeless, spent time in care or addicted to drugs, a judge was told.
Details emerged as Martin Heaney was refused bail on human trafficking and controlling prostitution charges from which he is suspecting of amassing up to £140,000.
The 57-year-old, of Maypole Park in Dromore, Co Down, denies the offences, telling police he was just an unpaid driver.
He was arrested on September 29 as part of a major probe by the PSNI’s modern slavery unit.
The investigation centres on activities over a two-year period stretching back to October 2017, when adverts appeared on a website allegedly linked to Heaney.
During that period nearly £140,000 was deposited into his bank accounts, the court heard.
He currently faces three counts of human trafficking and three counts of controlling prostitution for gain.
Further charges include acquiring criminal property, brothel keeping and paying for sexual services.
The alleged offences involve driving women to encounters in Omagh, Dungannon, Limavady, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.
With inquiries ongoing, Crown lawyer Samuel Magee said: “At present there are six victims, each of whom has co-operated with the police investigation.”
During questioning Heaney insisted his only involvement was to collect and take some of them to destinations around Northern Ireland.
But according to the prosecution he can be “overwhelmingly” linked through CCTV and telephone evidence, along with financial documents and website information.
Mr Magee also disclosed that Heaney was stopped by police in March while allegedly dropping off a woman to someone willing to pay for sex.
“It’s our position that he carried on undeterred,” the barrister said.
Peter Coiley, defending, stressed his client denies any involvement in sexual activities.
“He indicated his role was simply an unpaid driver,” counsel submitted.
“He did it simply for company, or because he was bored.”
However, Mr Justice McAlinden put it to him that more alleged victims have emerged since Heaney has been in custody.
“If this claim is made out it’s the Deliveroo of sexual services within Northern Ireland,” the judge said.
“You can’t get much worse than this level of alleged offending.”
Mr Coiley insisted Heaney had exploited no-one and made no financial gain from any role played.
The court was also told that cash found in the accused’s bank account can be explained from the £130,000 sale of his late father’s home.
Denying bail, however, Mr Justice McAlinden cited the risk of interference with vulnerable witnesses.
He described the alleged modus operandi in the case as “truly shocking”.
“Adverts for sexual services have been put on the internet, advertising unprotected and risky sex,” the judge said.
“The method of facilitating this activity is that individuals described as vulnerable females, some of whom have gone through the care system, some of whom are homeless and some are drug addicts, are transported to various addresses where these sexual activities take place for financial gain.”