The following report was published in The Guardian on 1 August 2000
To her neighbours in north London, Josephine Daly was the harmless eccentric who named her £700,000 house Bunty's Corner after a pet dog she had buried in the garden.
Rarely seen outdoors or driving her white Rolls-Royce, the bespectacled 64-year-old hardly aroused suspicion in Hornsey.
But when detectives began investigating one of the capital's biggest vice rings, they soon discovered "Josie" was not what she seemed.
Over more than a decade, the quietly spoken Irish woman had built up a prostitution empire based at three saunas which was earning her an alleged £3-4m a year.
Only one of the premises actually had a sauna. Undercover officers were offered a sex menu after paying a £10 entry fee and ushered into a massage room where they made their excuses and left.
A surveillance operation showed 1,500 men were going to the brothels at Aqua Sauna, Lanacombe Sauna, and the Ishka Bath every week.
Scotland Yard was embarrassed to discover the saunas had been advertised in the British Transport Police magazine, and ' 999' a trade paper for the emergency services. However, no officers were caught during the inquiry.
"Josie is in the premier league of London madams," said Detective Inspector Paul Holmes, who led the investigation.
"She managed the whole business by remote control from home. She is an extremely exploitative lady."
Daly pleaded guilty to three charges of controlling prostitution for gain between January 1996 and December 1997.
Yesterday she appeared at Harrow crown court expecting to be sentenced by Judge Barrington Black, but the case was adjourned until September because of concern about her assets.
As well as her seven bedroom Victorian home, Daly owns six other properties in London, including a derelict 60 room hotel and a hostel where the prostitutes lived in between shifts at the saunas.
The court has the power to seize all of them. It is estimated they have a combined value of up to £5m.
Officers found £104,000 in cash when they searched Daly's bedroom.
Judge Black warned Daly she faced "a substantial financial penalty" as well as confiscation orders on her assets.
But he told her she would not be sent to jail. Daly has been suffering from ill health and appeared at court in a wheelchair.
Although officers at the vice squad based at Charing Cross believe most saunas in London are fronts for brothels, they were drawn to the Aqua because it was so busy. They were also suspicious about the number of women from Thailand and Eastern Europe who seemed to be working there.
One of the unit's main tasks is to smash the crime rings which smuggle prostitutes into the country from these regions.
Brendan Kelly, prosecuting, said officers paid £10 to get into the saunas. They were then invited to choose from a selection of women aged between 18 and 30 and were offered sexual services up to the price of £50. "Once inside the clients would be offered a drink and given a towel. It was quite clear that the massage or the sauna was incidental."
As the madam, Daly received the £10 door money. The prostitutes were not paid salaries but kept whatever else they earned and were allowed to sleep at a hostel nearby.
At 6pm every day, receptionists took the day's takings to Daly at Bunty's Corner, where she lives with her daughter, Emilia Tawaih.
The rubbish from the brothels was also taken to the house to prevent the local authority from becoming suspicious.
Daly never went to the brothels, preferring to stay at home to look after her three dogs. "She is passionate about them," said Det Insp Holmes.
He said the turnover of the businesses was "phenomenal" but admitted it was difficult for the police to crack down on prostitution when the laws were so "gender biased."
Add a Comment