In the Media

Former 'agent' cleared of running brothel

PUBLISHED November 16, 2012

Marie McKinlay, 40, admitted acting as an "agent" for the high class prostitutes - making £350,000 - but denied controlling them and was cleared by the jury.

Pregnant McKinlay, raised her trembling hands to her mouth as she was cleared by the jury of eight men and four women of controlling prostitution for gain and converting criminal property between December 2008 and July 2011.

She struggled to breathe as the verdict was read out, shaking her head and bursting into tears.

For £15,000 a month she ran an international escort agency whose website offered 25 girls for explicit services from the "porn star experience" to the "girlfriend experience" and even offered lesbian "duos" for clients.

McKinlay, who is pregnant with her third child, rented a £1,500-a-month apartment for employees such as 'Sophie Sweetness' and 'Beth Angel' to service clients in the £500,000-a-year business.

They charge up to £300 an hour and £1,500 for overnight bookings that had to include some sleep and "there is no question of pretending it is just companionship", defence counsel Mark Seymour explained.

Some of the escorts who worked for McKinlay, who made £92,000 in the six months prior to her arrest alone and £350,000 in profits from the business in two and a half years, were known porn stars.

But she was cleared after the jury heard that she did not control them with an iron fist but instead acted as an agent for the girls who were her friends. One is godmother to her children and she is about to be maid of honour for another.

The trial, which gave a "unique window into an unfamiliar world", showed that the women, none of whom gave evidence, were not the type to be controlled, Mr Seymour said.

The "high class escorts" were "educated people aspiring to degrees or with professional careers" who made thousands in the vice trade.

The jury were not "there to provide moral censure" as "what consenting adults choose with their money and bodies to do in their own privacy is down to them", Mr Seymour explained.

Prostitution is not illegal.

McKinlay who had "significant experience" in the sex game, set up the website and the agency, interviewed and recruited the girls, uploaded their details online including photos, price lists, and services offered, and fielded clients.

She made a "small fortune" to put two of her children through private school and paid her £1,500 monthly rent in Southampton with the cash.

But McKinlay, of Frome, Somerset, who denied controlling prostitution for gain and converting criminal property, told the court she was not controlling their acts but offering them a service - like an agent - and they instructed her.

Mr Seymour said: "It is not all Chardonnay and Champagne, of course it is not, it is not all lovey dovey every moment, but that is the nature of the relationship."

She told the court that she herself had been an escort until she fell pregnant and had to quit.

Asked why she had become an escort she replied: "I have been asked this question many times and the way I answer it is - my two favourite things in the world are money and sex, I absolutely love both of them, and a job that allows me to put them both together, why wouldn't I?"

Her vice career allowed her to hobnob with the wealthy and elite, including City workers, and she had been treated to five star holidays in Dubai, Paris and Geneva.

She and five other women formed Agency Allure in 2002 as an escort business where women were in control after coming up with idea over a bottle of Chardonnay in Selfridges.

By 2003 she was the only remaining founder member and, following the birth of her first child, had taken over running the administrative side - not as a madam but under instruction from the escorts, the jury heard.

On their website the agency claim: "Our unrivalled selection of escorts and companions are hand selected by our owner for their beauty, intelligence and personality, ensuring that which ever lady you choose you can be confident that you are getting the very best escort for you."