A Sheffield mum has spoken of her shock after finding that her house had been turned into a brothel.
Cheryl Hague has revealed how she discovered that a house she was renting out had been turned into a sleazy prostitution den - with a gaggle of scantily dressed girls, red light bulbs, blow-up beds and sex items littering the semi-detached home on one of Sheffield's large council estates.
She has told of her horror after making the shocking discovery and how she called in police to help evict the gang who were discovered during a routine gas inspection at the property.
She said: "If only I had seen the red light bulbs at the time and taken more notice of the amount of skimpy underwear on the washing line - but then why would I think that the house I rent out had been turned unto a brothel?"
Mrs Hague says she made the discovery after turning up at the "average two-bedroom house" she was renting out as a long-term investment for the property's annual gas safety check.
She said: "I went round to the house and met with the two engineers who were going to carry out the work. I knocked on the door and, after quite a while, a young woman - and I would say a teenager aged about 18 - who I didn't recognise - answered.
"Slightly concerned, as I knew the tenant was older, I said I was the landlady and asked her: "Where is the woman I rent this home to?" She just shook her head – then another young woman came to the door… and another. All claiming not to speak English so they couldn't answer my questions.
At this point I lost my cool and said: "Right then, I am coming in the house I OWN to find out just what is happening."
Mrs Hague, who is not identifying the exact location of the property in Sheffield, said that she had let out the property a few months previously through a lettings agent and had had no problems with other tenants.
She added: "Previously, we had vetted who we let the property to, but because of time constraints, on this occasion, we asked a letting agency to advertise the property and find us a suitable tenant.
"They came back with a married couple who were keen to move in. They said the man was working and passed the rent affordability test and his wife was looking for a job as they were both re-locating from Romania.
"Now, some people have said to me since – why did you take on Romanians in the first place? I must admit we did think hard about it because we have heard other horror stories from landlords but we know you can't tar everyone with the same brush. So, as they checked out, and the letting agent said she would stake her reputation on the fact they would be fine, we went with it."
However, that turned out to be a mistake after she made the shocking discovery one Saturday morning.
She added: "I asked a scantily-clad woman, probably in her late 20s, where our tenants were.
"She said the man had left and the woman still lived there but she and the other six women were visiting her from Romania. I didn't believe that but still wasn't sure what was going on.
"As I looked at the women - and the washing line full of underwear in the back garden - the penny began to drop. I am not naïve but I wouldn't expect to find this kind of operation on a family estate in Sheffield, so it was a shock.
"My curiosity took over and I went into the living room and discovered a double blow-up bed on the floor. Likewise, upstairs, each room had a double blow-up bed and some other items that would be associated with the sex trade."
Mrs Hague then called the police and along with two officers, returned to the house.
She said: "I told the two officers what had happened and the fact that I now believed the home was being used as a brothel. I also raised concerns that the girls looked young which made me question whether they were in this country illegally. They looked pretty shocked too.
"They went in the house and found that all the women had gone – apart from the older, scantily-clad one – who was still dressed in her short, revealing robe.
"They checked the house and told me they could see what had been going on but, without "catching anyone in the act", they couldn't do much. The other women had left their passports behind and the officer took notes from those and said they were all aged over 18 – although I have since found out that these documents are often false."
A neighbour revealed that taxis has been seen "pulling up at all hours" and she then confronted the woman who had been running the brothel saying: "I know what's going on here, the police know what's going on – so you better pack up and leave because I won't let this go."
"She just smiled, it was surreal. I was so angry – and felt like there was nowhere to turn – we hear so much about tenants' rights but the landlord should be protected too."
However, after endless phone calls to South Yorkshire Police and the lettings agency in the days that followed, she discovered the people had eventually left the property.
"They had left everything in good condition, to be fair, but forgot to take out the red light bulbs, I kid you not! Bizarrely, days later, we got a phone call from our tenant saying: 'Thank you for a nice stay'.
"No doubt the girls were moved on by their criminal gang to another unsuspecting landlord's home to ply their trade.
"This is something that angers me, these young women could be victims - and now they still probably are - as no-one did anything to stop what was going on, despite our best attempts. The other thing is that the low-life behind the operation seemingly got away with their crime and was free to set up again."
She said that she has now sold the house after the ordeal.