A gang-of-four who subjected sex workers to ‘terrifying’ knife-point robberies have been jailed for a total of 48 years.

Erlandos Vyte and Robertas Zilionas, both of Chigwell, travelled into London with Jospin Ble and Joshua Coke to rob unsuspecting escorts after booking appointments over the phone.

The men, all in their early twenties, would force their way into the escorts’ addresses armed with knives.

The women were tied up and threatened before their cards, money, phones and other possessions were stolen.

The frightening ordeal left many victims with lasting psychologically damaging effects.

One victim, ‘Crisanta’ – not her real name – described how she and her friend, a fellow escort, were targeted.

She said: “Before this happened I was happy with the work I was doing, but now every time, I am aware of the risk and worry both of us have changed drastically the way we work. Neither of us will now take any clients in the night time, which before wouldn't have been a problem; if they ask any details about the building it makes me scared and I will not take the appointment....I used to sometimes travel around the country and work on my own and haven't been able to do this. All of this has obviously had an effect on the amount of money we are able to earn.”

She added that even hearing the same accent of the men who attacked them in a bar triggers such fear it can cause them to have to leave the vicinity.

The men targeted seven locations across London over a seven-month period. Starting in June 2018, in Westminster. The gang also robbed escorts in Isle of Dogs, Hackney, Kensington, and Tower Hamlets.

Detectives, starved of forensic evidence beyond one fragment of a latex glove left by Ble, undertook the painstaking process of analysing 327,000 separate 'lines' of phone data over many months - with each line representing a single text, phone call or 'internet activity' – leading to the gang’s arrest.

Detective Sergeant Patrick Allen, said: "These crimes were committed by a ruthless group of men armed with knives who targeted lone vulnerable women [working] in their own homes. They attacked these women believing they would not report the incidents to police due to fear, embarrassment or the belief that the women would just see this as an occupational hazard.

"They were wrong, and I'd like to praise those women that did come forward. I would like to assure those women and men involved in the escort trade that no matter what work you do if you make an allegation of crime it will be taken seriously and robustly investigated by the Met. We will continue to pursue other suspects we have reason to believe were involved and would urge any other victims out there to contact us."

Vyte, 24, of Copperfield Road, Chigwell pled guilty to nine counts of robbery, while his three co-defendants were all found guilty by the jury following a six-week trial. He was sentenced to 12-and-half years in jail.

Zilionas, 21, of Copperfield Road, Chigwell, was found guilty of five counts and jailed for 14 years

Ble, 23, of Knox Road, Newham, was also found guilty of five counts, while Joshua Coke, 21, of Mountfield Road, Newham, was found guilty of one count.

Ble was sentenced to 12 years' and Coke to 10 years in jail.

The men were sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Friday, 7 February.

Detective Superintendent Colllings, added: “We encourage officers to treat all sex workers with understanding and respect, and recognise that the safeguarding of the vulnerable has to be at the heart of our response regardless of individual circumstances.

"The convictions achieved in this case bear out this approach, and I hope that they will serve to increase trust among this group and give any other victims the confidence to come forward to report crimes to us”

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