A WOMAN trafficked into England and forced to work as a prostitute told today how she was "saved" by the people of Sheffield who helped to rebuild her shattered life.
Marinela Badea, aged 20, who was raped night after night and suffered regular beatings during her ordeal, was offered refuge in Sheffield by a charity which works with vulnerable women and now calls the city home.
She credits the people of Sheffield with saving her by offering her support and accommodation - and says she hopes one day to open her own safe house in the city to help other victims of sex trafficking.
She has bravely chosen to speak out about her experience after the man responsible for bringing her into the UK and setting her and other young women up as prostitutes to earn him cash was found guilty of 26 offences including trafficking, rape and assault.
She said: "I would never wish what happened to me on my worst enemy.
"I couldn't speak English, I had no money and I was being raped night after night. If I did not do what I was told I was beaten.
"I tried to escape once but was so scared of what was going to happen to me I had to go back."
READ MORE: Women treated as sex slaves by gang
Marinela was forced to work as a sex slave in Manchester and Birmingham and found refuge in Sheffield following a police raid.
Sheffield has had its own problems with sex trafficking and police in South Yorkshire have smashed a number of human trafficking networks over the years, becoming so successful at uncovering gangs trading girls and forcing them to work as prostitutes in the city, that it was chosen as the base for the UK Human Trafficking Centre in 2006.
It became a central point for police forces coordinating operations and working with other agencies dealing with the problem and helping victims.
Today Marinela said: "If anyone thinks somebody is a victim they have to go to the police to help them."
Marinela, originally from Romania, was trafficked into the UK in 2008 after a friend introduced her to 23-year-old Marius Nejloveanu, who confiscated her passport and phone, held her hostage and forced her to have sex with men. He would beat her up if she refused.
She was taken to a flat in Birmingham and starved - she was told if she wanted to eat she would have to work as a prostitute to earn money. On her first day she earned 300 but was forced to hand over all her earnings.
Because she couldn't speak English Marinela said she did not know how to say "no" to the men paying her for sex but said she used to cry in the hope that they would take pity on her.
Her family in Romania had reported her missing to the police and feared she was dead.
She says was forced to work in Birmingham for around six months before she was taken to Manchester to work in a sauna with other Romanian girls, where she was found by police during a raid.
But instead of being treated as a victim she was arrested for controlling prostitution and trafficking and later convicted of the offence at court.
She said she was too afraid to tell the truth at first because her captor had threatened to kill her if she ever exposed his illegal trade.
But after she was convicted she eventually told detectives about her ordeal and became a prosecution witness when Marius and his father Bogdan, 51, were charged.
When the pair went on trial for trafficking for sexual exploitation - which was described as their "family business".
Marius was convicted of eight counts of trafficking women into, out of and within the UK for sexual exploitation, conspiracy to traffic a woman into the UK for sexual exploitation, four rapes, five assaults, two counts of causing a woman to engage in sexual activity without consent, five counts of controlling prostitution for gain and witness intimidation.
His father was convicted of six counts of trafficking women into and within the UK for sexual exploitation and one count of controlling prostitution for gain.
When the case reached court it emerged Marinela was one of five women promised homes and jobs but who instead were "beaten and degraded".
Jurors were told young vulnerable Romanian women were targeted.
Prosecutor Rachel Smith said of Marius: "Most of them were raped by him, some were subjected to the most extreme physical and sexual violence and sexual humiliation.
"The sole purpose of the business was to provide Marius Nejloveanu and the wider Nejloveanu family with a significant income stream far in excess that they could have earned by going out to work themselves or employed legitimately in the UK or Romania, an income derived solely from the exploitation of women under their control."
The men are due to be sentenced later this month after the judge warned they would "inevitably face substantial prison sentences for their crimes".
Juanita Huntington, 51, who worked as a 'receptionist' at the brothels is also to be sentenced for her part in the operation after she admitted five counts of controlling prostitution for gain.
Costel Maruntelu, 25, was jailed for five and a half years after he pleaded guilty to two counts of people trafficking for sexual exploitation at an earlier hearing.
Marinela said: "I feel safe now and just hope they are locked up for a long time so that nobody else has to go through what I did."
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