Norwich sex trade victim tells her story

“Mai Ling as a younger woman”

When Mai Ling was growing up in Thailand, she dreamed of being a vet.

She won a place at the University of Bangkok to study animal science and had a bright future. But she ended up being forced into prostitution in Norwich.

The story of the victims of sex trafficking is rarely heard. In April last year the Evening News reported on how an international vice ring had been broken after raids on Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, and in May this year the woman who ran the Norwich brothels, Yi Yuan Geng, was jailed.

Now a team from BBC Inside Out has followed the story of how Geng was caught after a hunt lasting more than a year, and also of one victim who was terrified of the work she had to do but ended up finding love with her driver.

Mai Ling – not her real name – began working in the sex trade to pay off huge family debts in Thailand. She was trafficked into the UK and had to pay back £24,000 to those who brought her here, as well as sending money home to pay off large family debts. She now wants to turn her life around and restart her education, and then get a job.

She told Inside Out she was “really, really shocked” when she was offered the chance to work in the sex trade, but felt she had little choice, because her father was in hospital and needed an expensive liver transplant.

She said she was scared of “nearly everyone” in the first couple of months, “but after that you get used to it.” She would see four men a night on average, but at weekends it would rise to seven or eight. She recalls painful experiences, but used the money to come to terms with it.

She said: “If you wake up in the morning and count your money it make you feel better – that’s right, that’s what we try to do, we count the money – this is how much my mum, my family going to have, that make me feel better.”

She fell in love with her driver, who was himself trapped in the world of sex trafficking and had to take her to meet clients. Now they want to start a new life together.

Women who are trafficked into the UK are usually moved around the country to work in different brothels to give customers something new. They usually travel by train with just a small suitcase full of the skimpy underwear that is their working uniform.

Geng ran brothels in Queen’s Road and Wherry Road in Norwich, and another in Ispwich. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison and was deported to China in September.

Det Sgt Stuart Bailey, who was in charge of the operation, said: “Geng was just the start. Norfolk police are now going to add more resources to tackling forced labour, domestic slavery and sexual exploitation – all that human trafficking brings with a view to prosecuting those that are far higher than Geng.”

Inside Out is on BBC One tonight at 7.30pm.

Have you been trafficked into Norfolk? Contact us on 01603 772485 or



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