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Shocked police free four Brisbane ‘sex slaves’ tattooed by their 'owner'

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A man and woman remain behind bars after facing a Queensland court on charges including keeping women in servitude of unlawful prostitution after police said the women were given stupefying drugs and had been tattooed as being the man’s property.

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Matthew James Markcrow, 35, and Crystal Marie Sawyer, 23, appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday charged after a four-month investigation into the alleged Brisbane prostitution ring.

Markcrow faces 10 charges, including conducting a business involving servitude, conducting unlawful prostitution, possessing drugs and tainted property, and breaching privacy.

It will be alleged he was keeping several women aged between 17 and 24 in conditions of servitude of unlawful prostitution.

The prosecution will allege the women were given stupefying drugs, subject to controlled living, financial and work conditions and have also been tattooed as being his property.

Images on Mackcrow’s social media show four images of “property of Matt M” topped with images of devil’s pitchfork and an angel halo.

“If I had all the names it would look more like a scroll,” Mackcrow posted under the images.

Police also uncovered covert recordings of the females engaged in sexual acts with clients.

During a brief court appearance, Mackcrow gestured with a heart and mouthed “I love you” to two women sitting in the public gallery.

It is unknown how the women are connected to the case with the pair demanding privacy as they left the Brisbane court.

Mackcrow was remanded in custody on a return to prison warrant and will return to magistrates court on February 24.

Sawyer is charged with three offences, including conducting a business involving servitude.
She appeared self-represented before being remanded in custody and asked to consult with a female duty lawyer.

She is expected to return to court later on Friday.

Four young women were freed during raids in East Brisbane and Mount Gravatt on Thursday.

“We’ve been shocked by this, we didn’t understand this was happening in Australia, let alone Brisbane,” Detective Inspector Juliet Hancock said on Friday before the pair appeared in cout

After being freed, the women were referred to agencies for ongoing help.

“Some of them don’t understand they’ve been exploited and a couple of them yesterday were definitely very heavily under the influence of drugs,” Detective Inspector Hancock said.

Police believe there are more victims and are urging them to come forward.

“We know of at least two more but there could be more,” she said.

Consent is the major difference between prostitution and servitude charges, Detective Inspector Hancock explained.

“The distinction we would make in this case is one if someone’s heavily drugged, their ability to actually consent to things is diminished, or they can’t consent, and actually if they’re not getting any of the earnings from their work,” she said.

A community tip-off prompted police to begin investigating in October.

They found the women did not keep any of the money they earned, while the level of coercion and control used is still being examined.

-additional reporting AAP

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