Violent gang terrorising sex workers after seven targeted in spate of robberies at hotels
Gardai have issued an alert to sex workers operating from online sites after a spate of attacks and robberies.
There have been seven known attacks on vulnerable workers since the middle of October, but the number could be higher as gardai fear some could have gone unreported.
Gardai are appealing for sex workers to be particularly cautious about working alone since the spike in attacks and robberies, which they believe are linked.
The sex workers appear to be all working from websites and are booked through them, with meetings generally organised at a hotel.
But in the case of the recent attacks groups of men have turned up and threatened - and in some cases assaulted - the workers before stealing cash from them.
The crimes have not been limited to female sex workers.
Gardai say the motive for the robberies appears to be purely financial, as none of the attackers had sought the services of their victims.
While the workers have not been sexually assaulted, it is believed the robbers used considerable levels of threatening and intimidating behaviour, as well as some violence, to get them to part with their cash.
Some of the sex workers have been tied up during their ordeal. In recent days one such attack happened at a Dublin hotel where a woman was robbed of €800 and her phone.
Gardai say they are examining high-quality CCTV images as part of their investigation.
They are also urging anyone who has been attacked but has not reported it to come forward.
They have assured the sex workers that their cases will be treated with sensitivity and stressed it is important they gather as much information about the attackers as possible.
While most of the attacks have happened in Dublin others have taken place outside the capital.
Detectives attached to the Operation Quest team at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau are liaising with local detective units.
A garda spokesperson said their investigation is at "an advanced stage" and they are treating the victims "with the utmost sensitivity and confidentiality".
"The motive for these attacks appears to be monetary gain, although violence has been used and they have been terrifying incidents for the injured parties - female and male - involved, the spokesperson said.
"On each occasion an online appointment is made, but when the 'client' arrives the sex worker is attacked and robbed by a number of males."