An uncompromising look at the lives of sex workers in the Holbeck area of Leeds filmed over 12 months. Those buying or selling sex in Holbeck are not arrested.
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This programme contains strong language
and some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.
Hello! Are you all right?
You're not looking for business?
Me johnnies... Look, see?
They're not getting it bareback off me.
He's a 40-quidder, him - grab him if you can.
The Holbeck area comes to life at night.
Down here, it's easy money, isn't it?
I don't like being down there.
It's survival, at the end of the day.
Every single time I work, I'm putting my life in danger,
I'm playing Russian roulette with my own life.
I got attacked, you know? Last week, I got stabbed in the neck.
See me neck? Got stabbed in the neck.
A client stabbed me in the neck. He asked me for anal sex,
and I don't do anal sex.
When I said no, he said to me, "You are doing it,
"I've paid you for the hour, you're doing what I say, you bitch."
And I said, "I don't think I fucking am."
And he just went - "Fuck off", in me neck.
The first time I worked, well -
I used to be married to a woman in Hull before I went to me last
And she was rattling for her drugs, and she said to me,
"Can you get me some money?"
And I said, "How am I meant to get you money?"
She went, "Here." And she passed me a pack of Durex.
And I said, "What's that for? I'm a lesbian." And she went,
"Stand on that corner and you'll see what they're for."
Then a car stopped, and went, "Jump in, gorgeous."
And then he went, "What are you offering?"
And I just said, "Well, what do you want?"
Because I didn't know, I didn't know how to say it,
or anything, or how to go about it.
And he said, "Well, I want everything - how much is that?"
And I said, "100 quid," and he gave me 100 quid.
It was a bit of a buzz and a bit of an addiction going out,
and I got addicted to the money.
My prices are £20 for oral,
£30 for sex, and £45 for both.
£10 extra - back at their flat or mine.
Some of them are just, like, really sad and lonely,
and they just, like, want someone for attention, really.
Then you get some of them that,
they want all the, like, domineering sort of stuff, and I don't
really like that sort of stuff,
I just prefer to just get it done and get out of there.
I'll meet you back here in ten.
I always have me scissors in me pocket, and if I'm in with the client,
I always have me hand on me scissors.
And one sly move, and they would be pulled out.
And I don't give a shit.
Arrest me for it, I don't care,
I'd rather protect myself than take the risk...
..of being killed.
REPORTER: Police have launched a murder inquiry after the death of a
young woman in a managed red light zone in Leeds.
A 21-year-old sex worker was savagely beaten
in the Holbeck district, in the area where sex workers are
allowed to operate during certain hours.
Police say Daria Pionko was
found seriously injured on an industrial estate in Holbeck.
She died a short time later...
Stay away from that car!
The night Daria got killed, I was out, I was talking to her.
And then I went home, because I'd got me money.
And then that happened.
It's getting too dangerous.
There's been loads of coppers tonight.
That punter's on the loose.
Eight girls he's done now - from around here.
He's picking girls up, taking them around, paying them for a blow job...
Then, just as he's about to finish, he's battering them,
taking the money back off them and raping them.
I used to go round to this bloke's house, and he used to lend me money.
And one day I've gone around, and he's like, "Oh, well, give me a blow
"job, and I'll give you 30 quid."
And that's how it started, and...
Then obviously, down here,
it's very easy just to stand on the street and get picked up,
it's easy money, isn't it?
Since it's been legal,
there's a lot more cars about,
cos they're not as worried about getting in trouble.
If I'm being sensible and that, I'll just come out once, get 100 quid,
and go home. But then other days, if I'm
being ridiculous, I'll be back and down, back and down, up and down.
It's like nowt's ever enough, is it?
I've just got a call out to Wakefield, just off junction 40.
And I've got to walk past the reception desk,
and I'll see the door for the lift from the stairs,
give him a ring with an idea of when I'll arrive, please.
He wants me to shit on him.
I'm not joking, that's the truth, that's what he wants me to do.
He buys me a curry from the shop, to get me going, and loads of crack...
You know, to get me... Cos crack makes you go to the toilet.
And then, yeah, just do that,
and that's that.
Princess! Calm it!
This big knife here, that's for...
That's because of what's happened last night.
I was in Holbeck, been out about half an hour, and it was quite dead,
there was hardly any girls out, neither.
As soon as I got in, he locked the doors,
and that sort of, like, set alarm bells ringing.
And I went, "Do you mind unlocking the doors?"
And he went, "No, fuck that, I ain't having police opening doors up...
"..or one of your pimps."
I went to put my hand into my coat pocket,
and he just, like, grabbed hold of my wrist...
And I went, "What do you think you're doing?
"Get your fucking hands off me, now."
And he went, "Oh, what are you going to do, ring the police?"
So I've elbowed him, as I've elbowed him,
he's gone and tried to put his hands down my knickers.
So that's when I started screaming, and I let the rape alarm off...
And you could see the panic in his face then.
So he clicked the thing to the central locking, you know,
unlocked the doors, and let me out.
So I just started running.
Let me show you me babbies, eh?
These are me little darlings, these.
Hiya. I'm going to show 'em me quails.
Cos I breed these.
I've been brought up around quails cos the first foster home I had,
they use to get... Quit, in you go. ..they used to get quail eggs.
Every foster home I went to,
the social worker always made sure that they'd be happy for me to have
No, you don't! He'll have them.
I've not had a good childhood, me.
I was abused, ended up in foster care, taken away from my parents,
and I think it makes it easier for me, because I think basically,
I'm a shell of a body, they might as well have me.
Do you know what I mean? I'm an abused person, why not let them?
I have this every single...night before I go out.
Because it gives me confidence.
Cos I've got no self-confidence, me, got none whatsoever.
This ain't really a life.
It's just a fucking miserable existence.
I'd love to
be 100% clean from drugs, and...
So, I've got my hopes for the near future to get back in contact
with me dad before the Christmas period starts.
I love my dad, and...
..my dad don't deserve...
..the way that I have been, do you know?
I hurt him, you know?
For a man with his daughter,
this is probably the worst thing in the world, isn't it?
Asbo, come here.
He loves me to pieces, he goes to
bed with me, he's like my teddy bear.
Asbo! Gimme a kiss. Good boy.
When I first started doing it,
I used to have to sit and like think of somewhere else that I actually
enjoyed being. But like, now,
obviously because I've been doing it that long, it just...
You automatically zone out.
I'll sit and play bingo on my phone while I'm having sex and I'm
bent over, just to take me mind off.
I remember sitting in a police station when I were a kid,
I were only about four or five years old.
And talking to a police woman about
places where I'd been touched and, you know?
Everything kind of just went proper tits up in life,
I ended up getting on smack.
And obviously cos I had a drug habit, I ended up
just going down into Holbeck.
Where's the pipe? Get up and get the pipe.
-The pipe's upstairs.
-Go on, I've been running around.
You're absolutely splendid.
Just give me five minutes, love, and then ring me back.
I don't like speaking to them in front of him,
because he don't like it.
Fucking dead jealous.
That's nice, though, isn't it?
I do love him. I've got somebody to make myself nice for,
and make an effort for, and do things for.
He says I give him a headache, though, I do cheesy little things.
I've got a vibrator called a golden rod, right?
And I chucked it down his trousers, and you should've seen him dancing.
I'll get enough for us for tonight and tomorrow.
It's nice, isn't it, when you first fall...?
Cos I told you, I don't trust men, so when you fall in love,
it's real nice, isn't it?
Before I got with him, we'd chased each other for seven months, each other,
but none of us had the backbone to get it off the ground.
Oh, I need to get ready.
Sell me fanny in Holbeck.
I find her attractive, you know, she's funny, she's right feisty,
If a man loves a woman, they don't want anybody else touching their woman,
do they? But we've both got habits,
and I'm not going to rely upon him to fend for me.
You'll get people that'll meet you, and they'll say,
"I want to look after you", and rah-rah-rah.
"You can come and stay with me, I'll make sure that you're all right,
"and you won't need to go out to work",
all the rest of that bullshit and then...
It's just typical men, isn't it, do you know what I mean?
It's kind of to be expected when you're a
working girl, they just think, "Oh, I bring a working girl to live with me and...
"Yeah, I'll get sex free every day", do you know what I mean?
It doesn't work like that.
I like it better in the morning, cos they're in a rush,
so you're straight in and out of the car, they're not keeping you longer.
You'd think on a morning, like personally, I'm diving in a car,
cold as hell, get into it, a cup of coffee,
you wouldn't think you'd be wanting to get your end away in the morning, would you?
I was out this time yesterday morning, me, it was really busy.
Really, really busy.
Well, I made 200 quid in an hour, from four till five.
Early-morning time, it gets busier with the decent punters,
and the decent payers as well.
You know, people will pay us good money...
Because it's quieter for them,
and they know they're not either going to get seen,
or there's only going to be certain girls out, so it's better.
He's staggering all over.
Do you want business, love?
Sex? What do you think it were?
What's he doing with his face?!
Let me go see him. Here, come here.
Oi! Where you going?
Best fish and chips ever.
Last three Christmases, I've been in prison,
so this'll be the first Christmas out for me.
that's how I've ended up landing in prison at that time of year.
Last year, I were in jail,
which I actually spent in jail playing bingo with the staff.
Most girls all spend Christmas working down there,
girls that's not got families and have not got a methadone scrip,
they'll spend Christmas working, isn't it?
-At the end of the day, it's a means to an end.
My kids are with me dad, and there's my three-year-old, me four-year-old,
and this is what I get like when I think about it or talk it, so...
I just can't, you know?
It kills me, it kills me all the time, and when I think about it,
it fucking upsets me severely.
I need to fucking build the courage up to go down and see them,
basically I'm a shitty arse and...
A day's turned into a week, a week's turned into a month,
and now a year's gone by, and I've not been down.
And I suppose I'm just scared to show my face.
I've got a little boy,
but he got took off me at birth through the social services.
And when it was finalised at court,
they said that I was allowed letterbox contact twice a year,
but the foster care is adoptive care,
they've changed it to once a year on his birthday.
But I haven't heard anything from him since he were two.
He'll be 11 in January.
I've never worked on Christmas, never.
It's time to be with family.
Even though I'm not with my family,
I don't think clients should be away from their families.
So Christmas Day will be me and my dog, Princess.
She'll have her own presents, which she'll have to open.
I know I won't be there Christmas Day.
It's that... Unfortunately, I don't get that privilege.
I need to prove myself more,
before that happens, to my mum and my dad.
Because of the amount of times that I have fucked up in the past,
and the amount of times that I've said I'm doing well, I've got clean,
blah-blah-blah, and then I've either been lying, or I've got back on it.
They need to see consistency, which... I don't blame them,
because at the end of the day,
they're doing what's right by my children.
I'm nearly 30 now.
I've had 12 years of it, and I don't want another 12 years of this life.
I'm just sitting at home, debating, "Should I go out, should I go out,
"should I go out?" But in the end,
I've got to, do you know what I mean?
It's just a matter of surviving, so I have to come out,
and earn something.
Just put on as many layers as I can, just to try and keep warm, you know,
my scarf and my gloves and my hat.
I probably don't look that desirable at the minute, but you know,
just try and keep warm best I can, and that's all I can do, really.
My God. What an area.
I just hope she's pleased to see me.
-How are you?
I've missed you so much.
Why haven't you been in touch?
Mum, I ain't got a phone.
At least you're not dead.
-Of course I'm not!
-Come back with me.
I can't, I've got no passport, I've got no money, I've got nothing.
Well, if we can get help to get your passport...
You know, Mum, it's hard.
Life in general is hard.
You've never seen anybody round, Mum.
And it's not nice, believe me, it's not.
It's horrible. I'm getting cold shakes, cold shivers, hot shivers.
I've been sick, I've got diarrhoea, my eyes are streaming,
my limbs are aching, I can't walk, I'm physically just...
I may as well be dead.
-Don't say that.
-I know, but that's how I feel, Mum,
if I don't get what I need.
Because that's how it makes me feel.
I just need seven quid.
I'm not giving you money for drugs.
Then...I'm just going to have to do what I'm doing...
-..to earn some.
-What, you're going out on the streets tonight?
What else do you want me to do, Mum?
I don't want you to do that. I want you to come and get help with us.
Come back with us.
Get yourself sorted.
-Are you going out like that?
-You're going out like that?
-Yeah, I've got to.
I'm rattling, I'm poorly.
-Keep yourself warm.
-Just drive safely.
We will. All right? You be safe as well.
I will be, I'm all right.
-See you later, love you, bye.
It's not what we're supposed to be doing, really, is it?
Standing on street corners like pieces of meat,
waiting for men to pick us?
I don't have no dramatic stories or anything, I wasn't abused,
I didn't get raped by my uncle, or nothing like that.
I started using heroin, just inquisitive.
And two weeks after learning how to foil, I had a habit, I was addicted.
It's hard, it's a bad cycle, it's a vicious cycle.
It's nasty, very nasty.
Very, very nasty.
But you can't help it, you still do it.
As much as you don't want to be doing it, you'll still do it.
You left here with my money!
My money, not yours!
I had to bounce down beat to fucking
get a graft so I could sort myself out.
And there's not worse, yeah, than fucking sucking someone's dick,
or having sex with someone when your skin's crawling, when they touch you,
-when you're rattling.
-Soz I fucking ran off and disappeared.
You know, I didn't sit there and think, "Ha-ha-ha,
"I'm going to do this to her", and go do it, you know what I mean?
To fuck off from my house, yeah,
and leave me after I've given her my £20 that I was going to save
for the morning, to fuck off and leave me locked in me own house for
12 fucking hours, for her to give me
not even £3 worth of gear in each of the fucking wraps,
it's a fucking joke and a piss-take.
Do you know what I'm saying? It's hurt me more, cos I thought...
..I honestly thought, yeah,
we had a bit more of a better relationship than that,
do you know what I'm saying?
I can't be fucking arsed with the bullshit.
She had a choice.
She chose to go out, spend my money,
and then avoid me.
She had a choice.
It's just a second chance, isn't it?
Well, going back here is about fourth, fifth, six chance.
But you know, starting afresh
and living a proper life, a normal life...
Without having to worry about where my next tenner bag's coming from,
or anything like that.
Now I'm living here, I don't know anybody around here.
So it's like a fresh start for me,
so I don't bump into people
each and every day who are taking drugs and...
Do you know what I mean? So it is a complete turnaround for me.
That's in the past now, so I don't want to think about it.
You know, that part of my life's done, over, finished with.
Me favourite one, Julie Walters.
It's a really good read, it is.
I feel like I relate to her, I think...
..cos she was dragged up.
Even though I was in care and stuff, and she wasn't,
she's had a bit of a rough upbringing.
And I'm reading Fifty Shades Of Grey now.
It's a right dirty bastard book, that!
Sorry for swearing, but it's filth!
I've done some funny old stuff, but fuck me, is that dirty.
Have you read it?
See that flooring? That flooring cost nearly five grand.
I built this from scratch.
Miss it, as well.
It was mine, my own.
Hair, nail, beauty, massage.
I got myself clean and everything for it, did really well.
I'm a qualified holistic therapist, aromatherapy...
Aromatherapist, reiki master.
It's not like I'm just a down-and-out,
council-estate, common-as-muck junkie,
do you know what I mean?
First started my training...
..in prison, believe it or not.
Take your top off.
Is it a massage?
Once I've sorted myself out completely,
I want to be able to move forward,
..start doing this again.
I'd still stand here and say, working on the beat and being a prostitute,
doing what I've done, it is a lot harder than any job.
It's not something that I'd say I want to spend the rest of me life
doing, but I would doing this.
It's nice to care, isn't it?
It's nice to be cared for, but it's even nicer to care, isn't it?
Thanks is a wonderful word, and all.
What is wrong with you, seriously?
I swear to God, they've just attacked me,
they've just battered me with bars, up the street.
All those young ones, can you see them stood down there?
They've just fucking...
What the fuck?
As I'm starting to walk up,
they're starting to follow behind me, you know,
shouting and stuff.
I've crossed over
the road, the two lassies with
metal bars have followed me over, yeah?
Run up behind me...
..and have hit me between five to
seven times with the metal bars, while saying
stuff like, "Give me what you've got, give me your phone",
all this and that.
So like some sort of fucking crank lad like...I've had to start running and shouting out,
making myself look like some sort of fuckin' ding.
But I had no choice
because I was being fucking whacked with metal bars!
Do you know what?
Never in me 28 years of fucking life, yeah, have I had all like that.
I thought we were little bastards when we were teenagers, yeah?
But we didn't do fucking shit like that, mate.
I've been described as a professional shoplifter.
I've been in prison 14 times.
A lot of shops know me, started to get to know me and that.
That's why I travel further afield.
I don't ever go out looking like...
..I've just rolled out of bed or anything, I always, you know,
make sure me hair's done, I'm wearing all right clothes.
I start feeling calmer once I've got about 100,
200 feet away from the shop.
£10.99, £9.99, £11.99,
that was just a two-minute job.
If I'm doing them in pubs, it's four quid each
or three items for a tenner.
If I'm selling them on to my bulk buyer - two quid each on them.
58 quid, there is there.
I'll be happy for tonight and tomorrow morning, yeah.
I've got qualifications, I've got 11 GSCEs - A to C.
I've got NVQs as well.
Level 1s, level 2s, catering - I've got it all.
But I've got a criminal record now.
It's just a little letter to the kids that I'm hoping my parents will
give to them.
"Hi, my gorgeous little boys.
"I hope you are all OK.
"Sorry I've not spoken to you all, or seen you all in a while,
"but Mummy's head's not been well.
"I hope you can all understand, and I hope to see you all soon.
"All my love, hugs, and kisses, to the moon and stars and back again,
"and around, here you pop."
That's just our little saying.
My kids... Getting contact back with them.
Proving that I can do it.
Proving I'm not just a fuck-up.
And I'm not going to be another statistic.
Who was that?
I hope you're not blaming me.
If I'm not here when you get back, you'll know I've gone.
I love him, but he just...
He's not bothered, is he?
He's had his chance, hasn't he?
Life's a bitch, isn't it?
Good riddance to this shithole!
Fuck you all!
I feel like he's seen me as a meal ticket,
rather than somebody who was meant to be his girlfriend,
or who he was meant to love.
Rent outstanding - 820.
Tough. That's what I think to that.
I'll be back here, back by myself, going out working for myself,
and coming home to myself.
Back with Julie Walters.
I don't know what it is, but lately, I feel...
I've just been feeling proper down and shitty and...
I feel like I've dropped into a fucking hole and got myself stuck,
and I'm really fucking struggling to get back out.
Do you know, I've had this drug problem 12-13 years,
picking's something I've never done, never had a problem with,
and these last couple of month, I've developed this picking problem.
And the only thing I can put it down to is pure amounts of stress.
And I'm sitting here on me own, fucking two,
three hours, sat there,
fucking doing this to me face...
And it don't help with work, cos, you know...
It looks absolutely horrendous, look what I've done to myself.
Would you think that were picking? Someone would think I'd fallen
or something, wouldn't they? That's what I've done to myself.
I'm socialising or having company with anyone is the customers.
And, er...it's not...
..the sort of company I want, you know what I mean?
Or you know, you want to maybe have a coffee and a chat,
but obviously all they're interested in
is sex, sex, sex,
That's what it's all about, 24/7.
It's all about that, and nothing but that.
I texted my mum on Mother's Day, and just said, happy Mother's Day.
And again, I said sorry to her.
She replied, and thanked me for the message,
and also just explained that she
can't really get over what I've done,
which I totally understand.
But that she's happy for me to text now and again,
and just take it from there and see how it goes.
Methadone, it's not an instant cure, is it?
It don't deal with the mental side, but it deals with the physical side.
I'm not going to rattle any more,
I can wake up in the morning and I don't instantly feel ill.
Now I go to the chemist once a day,
and I've got to drink it in the chemist.
What they do is, like,
if you start providing negative tests on a regular basis,
you get to a point where they'd maybe let you go twice a week to pick your
methadone up, you know, so they give you three days and then four days.
But at the minute, it's supervised daily in the chemist.
All right, thank you.
I just want to get myself right now.
Look what one of me... admirers has brought me.
That's well cute.
I'll be getting past it for the beat soon.
I will. Cos people go down there and they're in their 50s, you know?
I wouldn't dare.
But you do get granny shaggers, don't you?
You think I'm a granny now?
I'm nearly there, aren't I?
You know, the first time I ever started doing that,
I said, "I'm only doing this for a short while, six months."
Ten years later, I'm still at it.
The police drive around, just to make sure everything's all right,
but they're less on your case if you're down within the managed time
and in the managed area.
People just think,
"Oh, a prostitute, they're doing it just for the drugs and that",
do you know what I mean?
People don't actually realise that there's reasons and stuff behind it,
and that every different person's got a story as to why they've ended
up in the situation that they have, do you know what I mean?
it's like there's never no closing time.
It's, like, once you get in,
it's hard to get out,
cos it just goes on.
I'm angry in myself.
Disgusted in myself.
I've got three beautiful children that live with my mum,
cos I can't look after them.
They should have been enough.
But they weren't.
I do dream about not doing this, not being on drugs,
because I don't like the lifestyle at all.
I hate it.
I crave normality.
I crave it more than anything.
Do you want business, love?